I wonder how much room we have made in our lives to love the fourth group of people. Most of us do a pretty good job loving at least three groups. We love ourselves, we love our families and we love our friends. The fourth group is a bit more difficult to love. They are people who are different than us by religious beliefs, social customs, skin color, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and gender.
For the most part we have formed counter-cultural communities, called churches, and invited those people into our tribes who were willing to act like us, think like us, and behave like us. We do go out from time to time and attempt to reach the lost world, but mostly we are content to retreat to our safe circles and love the three.
To me, this is the very reason we are losing the culture wars and why the church looks more like the world than the world looks like the church. Jesus told us we are salt and light, but also warned us that we could lose our saltiness and we would be tempted to hide our light. I am ready for a salty, radiant tribe of people called New Lifers to go find the fourth group and influence them for Jesus, using words only when necessary. That is the heart and purpose of the new sermon series I am calling “Change the World.”
But no matter how eloquent I am and how often I remind myself and the church that we are to go make disciples, we will never really change our city unless we love those in the fourth group. This is what Jesus modeled to us and this is what made the religious community of his time so furious. The religious community was convinced of their spiritual and moral superiority and had completely rejected the idea of loving anyone who was different. Jesus really loved sinners and spent a lot of time with people who were rejected and despised, even asking some of them to be his disciples and apostles.
I want to look more like Jesus and act less religious. I hope I make some new friends soon and I hope they are different than me. I am going to take the challenge to be salt and light and make room for the fourth group of people. I want to really love those who are different than me and I pray that New Lifers join me on this new journey that could literally change the world.
It seems our church has regained some momentum and I am encouraged that our sails are filled with the winds of heaven once again. Momentum is a powerful idea that is defined as “an impelling force or strength” and is absolutely necessary for any of us to move forward or to feel like we are making progress. Early sailors prayed for favorable winds to fill their sails for their journey across the oceans and seas and we have prayed the same prayers as a church.
The past two weekends, over 35,000 people witnessed the Thorn and Crown, epic productions focusing on the arrest, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Over 1000 volunteers from our church spent over two months practicing and praying for the eight performances. As a result, hundreds made decisions to follow Jesus and thousands of believers rediscovered a new passion for the message of the cross.
Sunday, I sensed a renewed energy in the people of New Life and new sense of forward momentum. I think this happened because so many people committed themselves to something that required strength from heaven and the use of their unique spiritual gifts. When we surrender ourselves to the call and purposes of God, heaven responds with power and strength that literally propels us forward, like a ship charging across the waves.
Our church has had its share of challenges and many more opportunities for shipwrecks. We are thankful and grateful that God has steered us away from the rocks time after time and has pointed us to the deep waters where we can sail fast and free to new lands. Momentum is good and I am thankful for the new day that is dawning at New Life Church.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6-6-7 NIV
The car rides to school with Abram and Callie usually involve normal kid chatter and some silly songs on the radio from XM Kids. Today was different. I took the opportunity of our 15-minute car ride to talk to them about Holy Week, the most sacred time of remembrance and celebration for followers of Christ. Once again, I told them the story of Jesus’ arrest, his death and his resurrection and why Easter is more than chocolate eggs, pretty dresses and bigger than normal crowds at church.
I wonder sometimes how much of our belief system is rooted in sound theology and how much is based on experiences that produce good feelings. Please don’t misunderstand, I am in favor of good experiences and I even prefer them over bad ones. I just want my two children to have some understanding of basic theology so they can defend what they believe and not rely solely on how they feel at the moment.
Recent studies from numerous sources all prove that most children and students today are ignorant of basic theology. Most have a difficult time explaining why they believe Jesus was the son of God, why the death of Jesus paid for our sins, why the resurrection is factual and why Jesus is the only way to heaven. It is not surprising then, to hear that over 80-percent of high school students leave the local church once they leave their parent’s homes.
The reason they are confused is because parents are confused. We have become consumer Christians who view the church as a place that meets all our spiritual needs. We assume that children’s pastors and youth pastors are teaching our children all they need to know, when that is simply not the case. Parents play the biggest role in influencing their children to follow Christ and I believe we have missed the mark many times.
So, I think I will talk more about these ideas on future car rides to school and at night when we are getting ready for sleep. Obviously, Abram and Callie will have to decide for themselves if they believe these things to be true or not. My challenge is to be passionate about the truth of Scripture and to talk about such things at every opportunity. I believe we can do this while singing lots of silly songs out loud together and enjoying every moment of the innocent years of childhood.