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The Authentic Life

I preached last Sunday that New Life Values The Authentic Life. It is part of our seven core values that make New Life the church God would have us be. I would like to share a piece that didn’t make it into that sermon about the topic. I would like to share part of why I think God would have us be a church that values The Authentic Life. You can listen to the Sermon here.

The first obvious reason that I believe God would have us be a church that valued The Authentic Life was expressed in the sermon. Authenticity is a firmly biblical concept. That is foundational. If it weren’t directly supported by the bible it wouldn’t be a value of New Life so all of our values have that as a reason. Beyond that there are many other cultural features, or things New Life could emphasize as a value that we don’t. So… the question remains: Why The Authentic Life?

I believe it has a lot to do with the Millennial Generation. The millennials are those of us born between roughly 1977 and 1992, and there a lot of people very interested in them.  It has been well documented that millennials value authenticity almost more than anything else. Article upon article as been written about this subject. This is significant for several reasons. One reason is that the millennials are overtaking the “baby boomers” as the largest generation. Another is that they are beginning to influence culture in a major way. The more the millennials influence the culture around them the more that other generations will begin to act, and think like the millennials.

Why is this important for the church? Well, our values have a lot to do with how we do church. The message of Jesus and the bible do not change but the way it is communicated must. The method need in order to effectively communicate the message to a baby boomer may be different then the way we communicate it to a Millennial. Thus, understanding a generation goes a long way toward reaching a generation.

Finally, there is something we all need to realize about generations and how they differ. Every generation that comes along is labeled as worse by the generations that proceeded it in one way or another. What we must realize in the church is that one generation is not worse, less religious or moral, or difficult to reach than the proceeding, they are merely different. Each generation as aspects of the gospel they more easily accept and aspects they more quickly reject. The church must realize the differences and adapt its method to use the parts the generation accepts to communicate the parts it struggles with. The problem with the church, is that typically, we have figured out how to reach one generation about the time it is getting old. We need to be ahead of the curve and I believe that is part of why we value The Authentic Life.

Article about Millenials and Authenticity
http://www.forbes.com/sites/karlmoore/2014/08/14/authenticity-the-way-to-the-millennials-heart/

Article about the rise of Millenials
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/01/16/this-year-millennials-will-overtake-baby-boomers/

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Posted by on February 20, 2015 in Church, Sermons

 

Mobilize and Educate

The church has typically educated then attempted to mobilize often with poor results in the mobilizing aspect. The Bible teaches that we are to mobilize and while people are in motion on mission active in living out their faith. We are then to educate in the process. Education after all is not a destination at some point in the distance. It isn’t that on day we will be educated, mature, discipled believers but rather that discipleship, that Christian maturing, is a continual process.

It is much easier to steer a moving vehicle then one that isn’t moving.

Jesus said I send you out as sheep unto wolves then I will give you what to say. Matthew 10:16-19

We don’t have to know everything in order to be effective in evangelism or reaching this world. What we have to do is be authentic and love people just as Jesus did. To provide a safe place for people to share their lives. Accept people as people who are loved by God yet struggle with sin, just like us. Jesus didn’t wait to teach everything he had to teach to his disciples before he sent them out. Jesus apparently sent then out in the middle of them being his disciples.There is a story of Jesus sending his disciples out and them coming back with a man who had a son with a demon. The demon wouldn’t come out for the disciple but it did when Jesus called it out. The disciples tried first then brought the man to Jesus when they couldn’t.

This is why being in a mentoring, discipleship relationship is important. Not because we need one on one education but because we need one to one discipleship, we need to have someone we can ask questions to as things happen, in the midst of struggles. This is why Life Groups are so important at New Life. It is a group of people to share struggles and triumphs with. A group of people who celebrate and support us and that we in turn do likewise.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2015 in Church, Community, Encouragement, Life, Sermons

 

Getting Ready For Company

Our theme as a church in 2015 is “Getting Ready For Company”. This means that we are preparing ourselves and our church so that people can feel safe and at home with us. This is going to work out in three particular areas of our church: our Life Groups, our Facilities, and our Structures. I just want to take a moment and talk about some of the exciting ways that we are preparing this year so that we are ready as we continue to grow.

Structures

What I mean by structures is the way in which we do things at New Life. In established churches and especially small churches it is often hard for new people to feel welcomed, or sort of break into the social fabric of our community. So we are developing practices, and ways for New Life  to be as welcoming as possible and for people to get connected as quickly and easily as possible.

The first way we are doing that is with our Connector events. Connector events are times when we can get together to just connect, to get to know each other, to grow in relationships and build community. We currently have an on-going youth connector that happens the first Friday of each month, and a regular men’s connector is in the works. We have plans for other connectors both on-going and single events to make it as easy and enjoyable as we can for all of us to connect at New Life.

The second structure that is helping us get ready for company is our new volunteer orientation. We will be rolling it out in the next month or so. If we don’t have a clear way for people to get involved many people may never get involved, even if they want to. The volunteer orientation helps everyone know what to expect from the church, and what will be expected of them as a volunteer. It will be a great entry point to further connection.

Facilities

We will be making some major and not so major facilities updates and improvements in 2015. Our biggest project is water proofing our basement. This will be a major undertaking but will help to make our basement a much more usable space. Other projects like painting, carpeting, and decorations are already in the works. We will also finish work on the bathrooms.

Life Groups

This is really the most important feature of our preparations this year. Outside of our leadership team we only have two Life Groups now. Life Groups help New Life be much more connected and in a much deeper way. Life Groups are also our means for making disciples at New Life. The success of our church at accomplishing the vision God has given us ultimately will be won or lost in our Life Groups.

Our goal this year is to triple our Life Groups. Each Life Groups is full with about 10-12 people. So if we triple the number of Life Groups through New Life from 2 to 6 it  will give us enough room for 60 adults to be in Life Groups. That means 60 adults at least 30 families maturing in Christ, connecting with people and God. This isn’t enough to continue growth but as the numbers of Life Groups increase the speed at which they increase will also grow. In other words it will be quicker to go from 6 Life Groups to 12  than it will to go from 2 to 6.

What Can I Do?

The most important thing you can do is get in a Life Group and make sure you are growing in your walk with Christ.
Secondly, when we have volunteer orientation make it a point to be there.
Third, get involved. Pray and think about where you could serve. The Volunteer orientation will help with that.

Finally, Give! Givve your time, Give your prayers, Give your abilities and Yes, Give your money. Preachers don’t like to talk about it any more but it will cost money to do some of these things we need to do to make our church welcoming.

 

Bunch of Hypocites

One of the common refrains of people with complaints about the church is that it is full of hypocrites. One of my favorite preachers regularly replies to the sentiment by saying “yeh we are, you’ll fit right in”. Most of us in one area or another, Christian or non-Christian, have some area of hypocrisy. Hypocrite is defined as “a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs,principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially person whose actions belie stated beliefs.” 

The fact is we all want to be better than we actually are. In this pursuit of better-ment often our thoughts of where we are get out of wack from where we actually are. This is normal, it is going to happen. The problem is when we attempt to present ourselves better than we are. As Christians we know the standard. The standard is exemplified in Jesus Christ, He was perfect, God is perfect, perfection is what is required. The good news is we don’t have to be perfect on our own. Jesus has paid the debt for sin on our behalf so before God we can stand clean. Then in our current reality we are being renewed by the Holy Spirit. He is making us more like Jesus, closer to the perfect standard with each step.

So we as Christians are inherently hypocritical, because the standard we strive for is perfection and none of us are perfect. But if we live this in humility it is gracious, loving and understanding that we all start at different places on this journey to being more like Jesus. The problem is when we attempt to look good, holy, righteous or “holy-er than thou” in front of others. Jesus in his famous sermon on the mount is very hostile toward this sort of behavior. In verse states ““Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractively,so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward” (Matt. 6:16). 

Perhaps your thinking that this is a bit fake? I am miserable but I am supposed to act like I have it together. Well, if you were just miserable that would be wrong and fake. As Christians we are called to bear each others burdens. We can’t do that if we hide our struggles from each other. The person in this verse is miserable because they are seeking God they are fasting for greater righteousness and intimacy with God. In that case we could be tempted to flaunt our “holiness” so Jesus says no we keep that between us and God.

We are hypocrites, admit it, embrace it, and live humblly in it.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2015 in Church, Individual Growth, Sermons

 

Wife Material?

Do you remember back to your high school days? Or just your dating days? Did you ever go out with someone with no intention of much else? I mean sure they were good for a night out or some last minute entertainment but they weren’t marriage material. Did you ever tell your pals “its not like I’m going to marry her” ” I’m not crazy or nothing”?

I think one of the most profound statements that Anthony made Sunday was that Jesus doesn’t want a girlfriend he wants a wife. Since I am now married and have greater insight into this analogy lets play this out. What do you do with a girlfriend. You schedule a day together, but it really isn’t a day its most often just a few hours. But its only when it is good for you. If work, or family, or a job, or something comes up you can always reschedule. Well you have a few good hours together mostly just having fun. You never really have to get that serious and then you take her home.

What do you do with a wife? You live to make her happy. Everyday is with her, you come home to her. You do everything together, if your seeing friends its together, if your watching tv its together, if your going to see family its together. You face everything together if you want to do something, buy something, change something you have to at least think about her opinion and preferably speak with her about it. You have good times just like when you were dating but you also face bad times like disagreements, and taxes, bills, and all your dirty laundry. You no longer do what ever you want but you do everything as one.

Anthony’s right we approach Jesus like a girlfriend, not a wife. We aren’t really committed to Jesus we just have fun and then we get to go do what ever we want to do. We spend a few hours a week in church, and then he is just a title. Oh yeh, I am a Christian I really like Jesus, “But I’m not crazy or nothing”. Jesus calls us to be his wife where we become one with Jesus, where everything is with him and about him and to make him happy. So stop just necking with JC and you better put a ring on it.

 

Furtick’s Haters

Steven Furtick is a hugely popular preacher. He is pastor of Elevation church in Charlotte NC, where he is lead pastor of a church of 8,000+ persons and has seen thousands come to faith in Christ over the churches short history. I believe largely because of his success in ministry and his youth Furtick has received many accusations in regards to his genuineness. I can’t say I know everything there is to know about pastor Furtick or elevation nor do I have a desire to. And I won’t say I endorse everything he says because their probably isn’t a person on this planet that I would endorse everything they say. However, what I will say is two things 1) I believe that Furtick is not a heretic and does preach the gospel. I believe that Furtick is a genuine Christian with a genuine love for scripture and people and desires to see the two connected. 2) I believe what Jesus said in Mark 9:40 ‘For he who is not against us is for us.” and that he was right.

With that being said watch this video from Furtick addressing those that have accused him:

Call me weird but I really do believe that we are all in this together, Christians that is. If one ministry or one church or one pastor or one person is successful it is not our job to point out how they aren’t perfect or how I would have done it differently. It is our job to celebrate some more people in the kingdom, or more orphans placed, or more hungry feed, or more Christians discipled  Why aren’t we celebrating and more importantly working with each other. I know that a large reason for this is denominations and I am no fan of denominations in a general sense. I believe they serve some good purposes but they also serve to bring much division. However, I believe that the Evangelical Free Church of America has it right on at least one point of their distinctives. They state that:

The Evangelical Free Church of America embraces a humble orthodoxy in partnership with others of like faith.

We believe in the spiritual unity of the Church though not necessarily in structural union. We join with other Christians and other denominations of like, precious faith in common goals and ministries to accomplish the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. But we believe that there is strength in diversity and that it is important to preserve our distinctives. We recognize that union in structure does not guarantee unity of spirit.  Our foremost concern is unity of spirit with our Lord, with each other and with other Christians. Check out there statement of faith to see just how humble their orthodoxy is. They are foundational and that is about it.

They are right and Furtick is right. It is time for us to stop “Hating” each other and start loving each other for the sack of the world. It is time to stop negatively pointing out how every other church isn’t like us and start celebrating the diversity of the work that God wants done. I would like to call on all those reading this blog. All those at New Life and around the world to be known by your love for other Christians. To be labeled as the church and the people who work with other Christians to see this world changed. Plenty of Churches say they would work with others if a situation came up and will if there is a big crusade or something. That is not what I mean. What I mean is we ought to start seeking out how we might partner with others. To deliberately search for opportunities to unite the body of Christ. I want to see more and more and more partnerships that don’t find differences but seek out similarities in the same missions to see people saved, lives changed, and the kingdom of God grown and strengthened.

We are in this together, lets start acting like it.

 

In God’s eyes

Anthony spoke on giving on Sunday, specifically about giving within the church.

My question is what do we give out of. Some give out of abundance, some give out of lack. Some give out of obligation others give out of guilt. God would have us give out of love. This is why God gives to us, because he loves us, so shouldn’t love be the reason, the motivation, and the inspiration for our giving to those that would have a need among us, LOVE?

Doesn’t John 13:35 tell us that love for other Christian’s is one of the greatest tools for spreading the gospel that the church has?

That being said Anthony addressed our giving from the stand point of stewardship. God has given us wealth, resources, possessions, abilities so that we can be good stewards of it. We might think that being a good steward means saving, or investing, and sometimes it does. But we once again must be reminded that the way we view somethings is not the same as how God would view the same thing and our thoughts on a subject are not the same as what God’s thoughts would be on the same subject. So what would God’s stewardship look like?

God would call us to put to use, save and invest in the things that he sees as important. The very purpose of our existence, the reason he established the church. God would have us build community, and relationship with other people. Rebecca and I have opened our home on Saturday to invite people over to have a time to glorify God. We are using our resources for God’s purposes. God would have us reach out and grow in our relationship with him. God has given us more than enough to work with the problem is, in God’s eyes, we are just wasting it on trivial things.

Adult discussion:

  1. What are you wasting your God given resources on?
  2. What do you think God’s view of your stewardship has been?
  3. When are you going to do something about your lack of obedience?
  4. What is a small step you can take to being a more Godly steward?

Family Discussion:

  1. What are somethings God has blessed us with?
  2. What are some of our resources, abilities, etc. as a family?
  3. How can we better use what we have to glorify God?
  4. What are some areas we are wasting some of what God has given us?
 
 
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