I suspect most pastors would not want their kids to live in their house forever. At some point, the little munchkins need to move out of the basement and into a home or apartment of their own. So, if families are okay with sending their kids into the world to be productive adults, why are churches so reluctant to release their sons and daughters?
Every healthy church has a sending culture. In Acts 13, the leaders of the fellowship had been fasting and praying, when the Holy Spirit instructed them to send out Paul and Barnabas for a really important assignment. I imagine the leaders recognized these men were promising young leaders who could help them build a big church in Antioch if they would stay. But these leaders had something better in mind, something more eternal. I imagine Paul and Barnabas had already discussed their possible transition with the leaders and what we read in the scriptures was the beautiful result.
Leaders must allow their team to talk openly about transition, without the fear of being punished. We all say we are for the “kingdom” until one of our best leaders wants to leave for good reason, like a marriage. If the family is the mirror of the church, then we should celebrate when our sons and daughters are dutifully betrothed to another ministry assignment. Instead, most us treat Godly transitions like a divorce and make our teams feel shameful for even thinking of leaving.
The Antioch church was limited in their geographic knowledge, but they did rightfully discern that they were not the center of the spiritual universe. By releasing these two young men, millions heard the gospel, churches were planted, and the kingdom really did come to the earth. If they had refused to release them, I suspect most of us would have never heard of the church at Antioch.
I want the team I serve with to feel appreciated, protected and loved. I also want them to know that if God decides to use them in another city, church or country, I will stand alongside them like a dad. I will cry at the wedding, but I will also be glad they have moved out of my house and will soon be starting a family of their own. I can either be a grandfather or a divorce attorney – its my choice.
We all want to be loved and appreciated. We all want to be treated fairly, and given the benefit of the doubt when our motives or methods are misunderstood. However, if we have chosen to be followers of Jesus, we have another reality.
Jesus told his followers, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18) That is a chilling reminder that popularity was not something Christ promised any of us, even in today’s marketing savvy church world. No matter how many orphans we rescue; no matter how many widows we help; no matter how many people we dignify with basic medical care; no matter how many water wells we fund and drill for the parched populations, we will always be misunderstood or even vilified.
Have “Christians” earned some of this scorn. Most definitely. We have been angry when we should have been prayerful. We have cursed the darkness, when we should have been the light of the world and we have focused on politics when we should have been planting life giving churches. We have pointed out the failures of others while hiding the sins of our own soul. Hypocrisy and misguided zeal deserve the rebukes of our culture. For these things, we should repent and commit to being better at reflecting the Christ who guides us daily.
But, even if we get it all right and Jesus is purely reflected in our words, thoughts and deeds, we will not be popular with everyone. We have to get over the need to be adored and, instead, cherish the love of a few. Jesus got it right, every time, but we know how that ended. Instead of being aggravated, he forgave them and even took a repentant thief with him to paradise that very day.
Let our words be marinated with grace and our hearts saturated in worship. May we follow the ways of Jesus, who did not retaliate when he was falsely accused, but instead, left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. May we love one another sincerely, serve routinely and bless others at every opportunity, without any desire for applause.
We have made Christianity way too complicated. It is not about complex theology or understanding some hidden code, but instead, it is quite simple if you follow the teachings of Jesus. Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.
This past Sunday, I challenged the people of New Life to return to these simple ideas and to embrace a culture of genuine hospitality. In the next six weeks, I asked our fellowship to do one of the following.
1. Bring a meal to someone who is sick, has just had a child or has suffered a loss in their family.
2. Invite a new person in the church to your home for a meal or dessert.
3. Invite a student who is away from their family to your home for a home cooked meal.
4. Host a New Life group in your home next semester.
5. Invite someone who has no family in town to your home to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas.
I believe hospitality and sharing meals together is powerful. Church is not an event to attend but a family in which to belong. In a family, meals are time to talk and to laugh. Let’s open our hearts and our homes to our family, to strangers or to anyone else that God leads our way.
Share your stories with me along the way. I believe God is forming a family before he forms an army. Let’s practice hospitality and let’s do it cheerfully.
The first Dream Center is about to open, just in time to serve families in our city during the holidays. Read about your first opportunity to serve at the Dream Center as well as other possibilities to serve in the update below.
Local Ministries is collecting non-perishable food items. Check our donation trunks in the foyer for more details on the most needed items that we can give to bless families in our city. Please call Rina at 265-3180 if you have any questions.
NOVEMBER MONTHLY FOCUS
Teens are often times overlooked during donation drives. Let us show these students how much they are cared for this month by donating items that mean a lot to them. All donations will go to the kids at Carmel Middle School south of town at Christmas time. Donation bins are available on either side of the foyer outside the living room. On the donation bins you can find lists of supplies needed. Please call Rina at 265-3180 if you have any questions.
PASSING OUT THANKSGIVING BASKETS – NOVEMBER 18-20TH
It’s Thanksgiving time again, and we will be providing Thanksgiving Baskets to families in the Knob Hill area. We have three different ways for you to help us with this project. Option 1: Join us as we assemble the baskets of uncooked ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal at our new Dream Center location on November 18th from 1pm to 4pm. Option 2: Deliver baskets to the families on November 20th from 9am to 12pm. Please help us plan accordingly by registering at www.newlifechurch.org/outreach . Option 3: Sponsor a family Thanksgiving Meal anytime for $20 (please make checks payable to New Life Church with Knob Hill Baskets in the memo line). For more information please contact Rina at 265-3180
We have signed the lease on our first Dream Center building. It is a small office complex in the geographic center of our city, near the intersection of Academy and Austin Bluffs. I am very thankful to a generous businessman in our church for allowing us to use his property rent free.
The site is perfect for a medical clinic downstairs and the rooms on the second floor will be great for drug and alcohol support groups that we hope to start in January. Right now, Pastor Matthew Ayers is meeting with medical professionals and many other volunteers to organize and plan what types of medical and dental services can be offered. We are also going to install new carpet on the second floor and give it a fresh coat of paint.
This is not something that can be done super quick so be patient as we do our due diligence. We do hope to use the building during the upcoming holiday season for some outreaches into our city and we should have phase one of the clinic open in the first quarter of 2011.
If you want to serve our city, contact Pastor Matthew at firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks for your prayers and support. The dream of caring for our city through many Dream Centers is becoming a reality. God be praised!
We all want to belong to a healthy church and I certainly want to lead one, but what are the characteristics and traits that are synonymous with healthy churches? Is there any way to really measure something that seems so abstract? This is not an exhaustive list, but this should at least start some good conversations.
1. A healthy church is led well.
When the early apostles established churches, they looked for men and women with obvious character to lead the fellowships. They appointed elders who were mature, had good reputations in the community, were not greedy for money and managed their own families well. These leaders were accountable for their decisions and had proven themselves faithful.
2. A healthy church values relationships.
Healthy churches have a low tolerance for gossip or divisive behavior. They understand the power of unity and are ok with healthy debate so long as relationships are not splintered. They purposely live in authentic community and look for every opportunity to meet the needs of one another. They see each other as family and are determined to live life together in the good times and bad.
3. A healthy church is outward focused.
Healthy churches are always looking to care for their community and are willing to use any available resource to meet the needs around them. Healthy churches are a blessing to the community in which they live as citizens. They are a generous people who give sacrificially at every opportunity.
New Life is not perfect, but we are determined to be healthy. It is not easy just like a healthy lifestyle is not easy. We must wake up everyday determined to do the right thing for the right reason, even if it hurts. Healthy churches change the world and I am grateful to belong to a church that is doing just that.
This is an old school song, but it captures the heart behind Treasure, the current series of talks at New Life.
Treasure continues this Sunday at New Life. I will answer some frequently asked questions about giving, debt, generosity and tithing.