Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Message to the Brave…to the Members of Church Plants

Have you ever found yourself bragging about your church to a member of another church?  I was overhearing a couple ladies the other day talk about all the things their churches offered, almost as if they were trying to one-up the other.  Though I am sure their intentions were good…it reminded me of a truth about our Christian culture today:  we shop for churches like we shop for cars.  We want our churches fancy and with a lot of features!  We want our churches to give us the most bang for our buck, and to have good customer service. 

People who go to mega-churches seem the norm today.  But the most amazing people to me…are those of you who choose to go to a church plant…a start-up small church.  You are certainly not the norm, and as I think about the type of person who would go to a church plant…I am impressed.   Most articles you find about church planting are directed to the leaders.  But I direct this to the people who choose to attend a church plant.  Let me tell you why you’re incredible! 

Before I begin, I just want to note that my thoughts here are not meant to demean or undermine the incredible work that larger churches are doing in our community.  Every believer has their reasons for choosing their home church and I respect the differences in strengths and weaknesses that each church brings into their ministries.  But today I want to draw attention to those who have chosen to become part of a church plant.

When you attend a church plant, you’re essentially saying these things:

I don’t just want to be a consumer. 
People like to be entertained…so large churches typically answer that call.  They have the budget and the staff to make it a great show.  They make their services entertaining and professional.  They make it a service that even an atheist could walk away and not be offend. 

But those who choose to go to church plants essentially put consumerism aside.  They accept that Church plants usually have few (if not only one) full-time staff.  They often require volunteers who didn’t go to seminary, and who can only serve with their spare time.  Thus, though what they offer on Sunday mornings can still be powerful, church plants typically don’t put on flashy services.  They don’t have thousands to spend on lights and technology.  Rather, they come as they are to simply worship God.

And let’s admit that small churches don’t have world-class preachers (otherwise they most likely wouldn’t be there with you).  Rather, they have pastors that simply have a great desire to see the Word of God being preached and to guide their church members in living it out.  They work with their members face to face, and meet with them personally.  On top of doing all the other things for the church (visiting sick, phone calls, administration, printing, marketing…) they also have to find time to write a moving sermon.  People who regularly attend a small church-plant say “I appreciate the heart of my worship team and my pastor.  I don’t need the flashy…just give me Jesus.”

I am willing to give of myself.
When it comes to percentages, few people in larger churches serve.  Rather, most people are there because they like what they can get, the production and all the ministries larger churches can offer.  It makes people feel good to be able to point out to others they meet, all the key ministries their church has, even if they personally have nothing to do with those ministries. 

Statistics have shown that the few carry the weight of the many.  This is true financially, as well as in those who service.  The majority of people in most churches sadly don’t serve…and they don’t give.  At least not much. 

But those who start up church plants know that this cannot be.  A church plant needs “all hands on deck.”  In order to minister to their community, they need everyone’s involvement.  They need everyone to serve, especially just for the basic ministries of the Sunday service, children’s ministry, etc.  They need everyone to give in order to meet the budget.  Those who go to church plants generally know this, and accept it.  They know it takes true commitment from them, and they are usually willing to answer the call personally.  They have to make the choice to say “the Christ-like life is not about what I get…but what I can offer to the Lord.”

I accept that discipleship is Christ’s call for me.
Larger churches thrive off of their popularity.  They have new people who walk in their front doors every Sunday, simply because they want to check out this large church.  People ask…what makes this place so special.  And you know what…sometimes that was similar to the crowds Jesus had.  People often came because of his ‘shows’…his miracles…and because of His popularity.   But then there were many times that Jesus would say a hard truth, and all but his twelve disciples would walk away.   We see that Jesus’ focus was on simple discipleship. 

Small church plants have little to draw in the crowds.  Rather the majority of people who walk in the door are usually based on their members, inviting people personally.  These can be people they know, or can come from their willingness to go out into the community to seek those in need.  Church-plant understand their pastor’s constant call for evangelism and discipleship.  And many of them accept that the call is not for “everyone else” in the auditorium, but rests in the hands of the few sitting around them, probably on school plastic seating on Sunday mornings.  Attenders of church planters say, “Christ’s call to reach the lost is for me.”

I am willing to be accountable.
When you go to a large church, it might not be noticed if you’re missing for a few weeks, if you choose Sunday sports or lazy Sunday mornings in your pajamas for a season.  However, at a small church, it’s sure to be noticed that you’re gone.  You will be missed, and perhaps even confronted about your absence from the body of Christ.  When you attend a church plant you acknowledge that it is beneficial to your relationship with God to participate in corporate worship, service, and hear the word of God preached.  Attenders essentially say “I am willing to be accountable and to participate regularly.”

I am willing to go on faith.
Do church plants “fail”?  Sure…from an earthly perspective they can, and do.  Church-planters have to go on faith that the money and resources will be there next month to pay the bills.  They have to trust that God will sustain them in a culture that desires the flashy.  They have to lean on faith, that God will honor their efforts, even when the going gets rough, and the budget gets small. 

Church planters know that succeed or fail, God honors their faith, and uses their humble efforts, to impact people for eternity, even if it can’t be seen in the annual report, and even if we don’t see it on this side of heaven.  They accept that no matter what the future holds, each day they serve, each dollar they give, they can do so all for the glory of God…with no regrets. 

Do you see why now?  Those who walk in the door of a church plant each Sunday…they are amazing to me.  Just by attending…they are going against culture…and they are actively supporting the work of Christ.   So keep it up!  Run the race! 

Will you walk in the doors of a small church plant this Sunday?  If so, may God bless you for that simple act of faith.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Physical force to do what is right?

Physical Force to do what is right?

Was Jesus a 'pacifist?'  Did he ever use physical force to do what was right?

Probably one of the most socking stories of Jesus for so many people, is him driving out the money changers in the Temple.  He does this twice!  The first is at the very beginning of his ministry…and the second is almost exactly three years later at the end of his ministry (the same day as His triumphal entry into Jerusalem).

The question that comes to mind…is physical force ever appropriate in doing what is right?
The answer is difficult and easy at the same time.

If I were to ask you if it is morally right to physically stop an attacker of a young child, everyone would say “Of course it is.”  Most people, even self-proclaimed pacifists would never stand next to this act of evil, and just calmly say “Sir…please stop what you are doing….sir…stop…please…”  Of course not!  We would physically get involved.  (I deal more with this idea in another blog about “self-defense.”)  Okay…so most would confess that there are indeed SOME instances where physical force is necessary.

Perhaps what makes this story of Jesus so startling…was that it was not an obvious act of evil….at least to everyone else there.  It had become common place and accepted. 
Jesus saw it for the evil it was, and responded…not just with words…but with actions. 

For some…the only application they can make today is ‘Don’t sell things at church.’  But that is not even the point of his anger.  Rather…it was Evil masquerading as Righteousness.  Now THIS is something that certainly is all over our society. 

So…is physical force acceptable to stop that evil?  That’s where it becomes tricky. 
Some say, “It was Jesus. He was God, so he can do that type of thing…but we never could.”  But that breaks down, when the goal of how Jesus lived was to be an example to his disciples…and us…at least in principal. 
But of course the other end of the spectrum…so that physical violence is always okay.  Some have taking this to mean…that blowing up abortion clinics is justified.  But that certainly doesn’t match what Jesus was showing us. 

Allow me to make some observations first about Jesus’ situation.
1.        It was in the passion of the moment.  Jesus’ anger wasn’t premeditated.  It was in response to something right in front of Him.  Jesus always knew that evil was taking place…but didn’t go out of his way, or change his ministry, to confront it. 
a.       When we see evil in front of us…what is…or should be…our response?
2.       Secondly, people were more startled than hurt.  Now, I have no doubt Jesus actually whipped some people (God (including the Angel of the Lord…the Pre-incarnate Jesus)…plainly injured and killed people in the Old Testament.  So what would make him hesitate from bruising a few backsides here?)  But clearly ‘hurting’ people was not the goal.  Rather, it was to stop evil. 
a.       What evil should we stop when it happens right in front of us?
3.       Thirdly, it was supposed to be the most holy place on the earth.  This was THE Temple of God…a place where God was to be worshiped (even though the Holy Spirit no longer resided in this temple, as He did the first temple).  And the picture of people using it for earthly gain, was just too much to bear.   Certainly there are those in the past who have done just this…turning the worship of God…into profit.

Is there a scenario today that matches what Jesus did?  Obviously there is nothing that matches perfectly.  I hesitate to give specific examples…because every situation is so different.  But maybe the principals above will help us recognize them when we see them.  Perhaps you will come across a time that does justify a physical reaction.  Perhaps the Holy Spirit will move in you to do something about it. 

Jesus’ passion surprised His disciples.  Our passion for righteousness should also stand out in our lives.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Was Jesus a Youth Pastor?

I am a teaching pastor.  But years ago…I was a “youth pastor.”

I put that term in quotes because it usually comes with many unsaid connotations.  And unfortunately for adults today, most of those connotations are negative.  And the one that perhaps matters the most, is the idea that what youth pastors teach…is only for youth.  The idea that whatever is good for teens to hear…isn’t that important for adults.  Youth ministry is often considered a ‘lower level’ of learning than other pastoral teaching.

Now here is the big problem.  The 12 disciples were teenagers!  Jesus today would probably be called a ‘youth pastor.’  Does that mean that what Jesus had to say was only for youth?

I know all of our movies about Jesus and the disciples cast actors that are in their 30s and 40s.  But if you were to study the scriptures and the historical culture of the Gospels, you would find that Jesus started his ministry at 30 years old, and the disciples were most likely teenagers.

How do we know?  Well, basically cultural studies of that time tell us that this was the age that men of that time would follow a “Rabbi.”  Jesus was 30, an age accepted for a teacher of that time. And a teacher at that time would take young people, approximately 15-22 years old, as their scholarly students.

Another evidence directly from scripture is in Matthew 17:24-27. Here we see Jesus and Peter pay the temple tax which was required to be paid by every man aged 20 years and older (Exodus 30:13-14).  The other disciples were there, but didn’t pay the tax, thus it is logical that they are then under 20 years old.

There are many great blogs that discuss the many biblical and cultural evidence that the disciples were teenagers, so I don’t feel the need to repeat their work.
(Here is one if you are not yet convinced:

As we dive into our “Harmony of the Gospels” study this year, it is important for us to understand the true context of Jesus and his disciples.  Their age is significant for many reasons, but primarily as we ask:  Who was Jesus talking to?

The answer is of course “everyone”…but that doesn’t mean “everyone” was who he spent most of his time with.  It was these 12 ‘teenagers.’  Why teenagers?  I have read several articles over the years, showing how powerful teenagers and college students are.  They have a huge say in culture, and even politics.  But perhaps more than that, teens are usually ‘undecided.’  They don’t have everything ‘figured out’ yet.  They are still searching and actively learning truth.

Unfortunately adults typically aren’t.  I have said this before, that there are some questions and truths I often raise with teenagers that I would never say to a congregation.  Teens are ready for controversial questions like this and often adults can’t ‘handle’ the smashing of their neat little world…especially theologically.

My point:  Jesus was spending his time teaching a group of people who were eager to learn from him something that would change their lives.  Most adults don’t expect what they will be learning each Sunday from scripture will change much of how they live and act in their day to day lives.  As you read scripture are you prepared for Jesus’ words to change your life?  If so, you just might be eligible to be a part of the ‘youth ministry’ of Jesus.

Are you a teenager?  Jesus was spending his days primarily with people like you:  young, maybe with hurt backgrounds, high expectations, low expectations -

His message is for you-for those who know they don’t have everything figured out and are searching for truth and a better way to live.

Are you ‘older’ than a teenager?  Then I have two questions for you:
First, Are you still 'young at heart?'  Are you searching for truth?  Are you still hungry to learn and grow?

But secondly, are you actively following Jesus’ example to lead and teach the “youth” of this world? It might simply be the positive influence you have with just one or two teens in your world…but it matters!

I will always be a ‘youth minister’ at heart, because Jesus was my example to follow.  Will you?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Who is your Theophilus?

As we read the beginning statement of the Gospel of Luke, we see he writes to Theophilus.
There are many theories of who this person was, but essentially he was someone to whom Luke wanted the truth of Christ to be known.  So...who is that in your life?  Is there someone you know who desperately needs to know more about who Jesus is?

This past week I had a brief conversation with a teacher, who used to be catholic growing up, but then converted to Mormonism.  And I asked her, how does she know that the book of Mormon represents the true Jesus, and is not just man made?
She launched into this long discussion about her Mayan background, and how she feels Jesus appeared to her people many times in history, and thus it made sense to her that he would communicate, as odd as it is, letter by letter to Joseph Smith, even though that is not at all how God formed the entire rest of scripture.  Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to finish our conversation.  But it even more emphasized to me how important it is to know who Jesus really is.

The Source Church this year is now embarking a study of the most important and influential person in human history!  The four Gospels record truly the “greatest story ever told.”  In them we see the birth, the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah.  Even for those who do not follow Jesus, the gospels are an incredibly accurate and specific account of the very real person of Jesus—the most influential life that has ever lived, whether or not you believe in Him.  He has affected history like no other!
Because of Him, great things have been done.  When we look at those who have been feed, educated, protected…and from all major people groups around the world…all in the name of Jesus, His impact is clear.  As we retell history, however, we hear of great evil that has also been done “in his name.”

This makes our task this year an imperative one:
Our goal is to understand WHO this person of Jesus really was, what He was really like, and how he wants his followers to truly live.
And to do that, we turn primarily to the Gospels, which are not merely human documents but the inspired and authoritative Word of God.

So once again...who is your Theophilus?  Who in you life desperately needs you to show them the true Jesus?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2016 Goals

Well it is 2016!
And for many, the first question that comes to mind is... "What will this year hold."  Then, knowing that a year is what we make of it, many of us aptly ask, "What will I choose to MAKE of this year?"
Do you have any New Years Resolutions?  I know each year some make them on a whim...and then they quickly get left behind.  Others, because of this fact, look down on the concept of New Years Resolutions, and point out their seemingly apparent folly.  They most often respond by simply continuing life as they always have.  But that can be a problem in and off itself.
Because of this, I am more apt to encourage people to make resolutions.  And not just New Years resolutions...but new month resolutions, new week resolutions, and even new day resolutions.  Even the business world sees the value in making daily and weekly 'goals.'  Why?  Because "we will miss 100% of the goals we don't make"...or something like that.
Do we have goals for this year at The Source Church?  Absolutely! We will be sharing them at the annual business meeting (such a dry title...but for lack of a better term) on Sunday, January 17.  I hope all of our members can be there!

"Marriage in Heaven?"

In following up with our Eternity Series (from a while ago), here are a few more answers to questions concerning Relationships:

Will We Desire Relationships with Anyone Except God?Christ is “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last” (Revelation 22:13).  He alone is sufficient to meet all our needs.
However, God has also designed us for relationships not only with himself but also with others.  After God created the world, he pronounced it “very good."  But before He was done, He said that it was not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).  Though we will need and desire no one more than Jesus in Heaven, he will still be glorified by our relationships with each other.
Will we keep our Friendships?Receiving a glorified body and relocating to the New Earth doesn’t erase history; we will still remember our lives.  Heaven won’t be without families, rather we will be one big family, in which all family members are friends and all friends are family members. We’ll have family relationships with any and all people. That’s why we call other believers our “brothers and sisters” now.  If you lived this life without the relationships God meant for you, you will have them in eternity. 
Now we get to a few harder questions:
Is there Marriage in Heaven?The Bible is not clear about marriage after death.  But allow me to present briefly both sides of the issue.
Those who quickly say “no”, refer to the comment made by Jesus in Matthew 22 (also repeated in Luke 20:27-38 and Mark 12:18-27) Vs.29 "Jesus replied, 'You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven." 
Those who say ‘No Marriage’ Point to:- The purpose of Marriage in Genesis was because Man felt alone on the earth…and thus he was given a close help mate.  In the Immediate Heaven, there is no reason to be alone, or feel alone.  All needs will be met there.  We clearly can still have a close relationship with our spouse, but we will have a similar relationship with all our brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Another argument is that marriage was also for procreation…and there is no need for that in the new Earth.
- We are married to Christ. That the church is the bride of Christ, and the earthly marriage is only a picture of what that marriage will be like.
- The Law of marriage is dissolved by death.  Romans is clear that the law of marriage comes to an end at death. (Romans 7:2)
Thus we are properly 'married' to Christ in eternity.

Those who say Marriage Continues in Heaven:
- Jesus may have given the Sadducees an indirect answer. Some say that, like numerous other passages, Jesus doesn’t answer their questions directly, but rather what they needed to hear, usually concerning their true intention.  The Sadducees did not believe in the future bodily resurrection, and thus Jesus twice notes the resurrection in His answer to them.  They felt that by asking this questions that was too hard to answer, they would make Jesus stumble, even more proving their position of no resurrection.  Jesus could possibly be simply commenting on the legal contract.  If we don’t die in the future resurrected life, than there is no legal contract to a spouse.
Jesus is simply saying what heaven is NOT like.  Some theologians suggest that Jesus is saying that people just are not “given” in marriage in heaven.  They say Jesus is simply saying that in heaven they do not arrange weddings in the same way that people do on earth.
- God made marriage to be beautiful before the fall of sin.  Genesis 1:27 shows us that in a perfect world He made them male and female, and it was VERY good, then why wouldn’t that continue in the future Earth They say that if our relationship with God is like a marriage, would it make sense that what He likens it to would end at death?
- True marriage was meant to be an eternal covenant.  Matthew 19:6 - "So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."  Perhaps the Bible does not teach there will be no marriage in Heaven. Rather it shows one very important marriage, between Christ and his bride—and we’ll all be part of it.  Paul shows that human marriage is a mirror to our relationship with Christ:
          Ephesians 5:31-32 - “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
Our union on Earth points to our relationship with Christ as our bridegroom.  Once we reach the destination, our picture of that eternal relationship becomes unnecessary. Our marriage to Christ will be so satisfying, that even the most wonderful earthly marriage couldn’t be as fulfilling.
Will there be Intimacy in Heaven?
As we talked about, we will remain male and female in our resurrection bodies.  If human marriage existed before the fall, I would expect it to be a part of the renewal of all things.  God made sex to be beautiful, and I do not except that it is unworthy of eternity.
However some reason that this the one exception to the rule.  They say that sexual relations had a purpose of populating the Earth.  Now that that is no longer necessary, neither is sex.  Also, if you believe marriage does not continues, then there is probably no sexual intimacy in Heaven as well.
If that answer disappoints you, keep in mind that children often think there is nothing better in life than their limited understanding allows.  It stands to reason that we cannot even imagine of the great things in heaven, that will far surpass the good things here.  
Will there be newborn Babies in Heaven?
Most theologians do NOT believe there will be procreation in the Future Heavens and Earth.  The wait we have now for eternity is for the preordained number of saved to come to pass.  Thus  once Heaven has a designated population saved, that is the number that will reside in the New Heavens and Earth for eternity.

(Hope this was helpful.  You are always free to ask questions and respond in the comments below.)