Friday, October 30, 2009

Gospel presentations of Jesus #6

Jesus said “I came down from heaven to do the will of the one who sent me, not my will, His will. And what is His will? That of all the people the Father has given me, not a single one would be lost, but that I would bring them all  back to life on the last day.

You see, this is my Father’s desire, that all who come to the Son and believe in him would have eternal life. I will ressurect them on the last day.”

Monday, October 19, 2009

Everybody’s normal until you get to know them.

I am not sure where I read that recently, but this is one of the truest statements I know. When you take it and apply it to a church context, though, it can be a devastating indictment. Do you attend a normal church full of normal people?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gospel presentations of Jesus #5

When Jesus was informed that some Galileans had been killed by Pilate while they were offering their sacrifices, he spoke. “Do you think that those Galileans deserved that? Do you think they were taken out like that because that they were the worst sinners in Galilee?”

“No, they weren’t” Jesus continued “But the truth is, if you don’t change your lives, if you don’t repent, you are going to perish too, just as surely as they did.”

--somewhere in Luke 13

Saturday, October 10, 2009

“We ministered to them.”

Sometimes I wince when I hear that phrase.  People say it to laud themselves for having given a handout, said a prayer for someone, or donated some unneeded clothes. But often these words are repeated when all someone really did is keep a safe and sterile distance from someone else. The “ministry” may have been spontaneous, but definitely hastened toward some kind of neat closure.

The problem with this kind of ministry-at-arms-length is that it is really more about assuaging guilt than serving Jesus. We feel bad about someone’s situation and want to help. We know we ought to be more involved in helping others, but we are worried about becoming tangled up in someone else’s dysfunctional life. So we resort to giving something or making a superficial gesture of concern and sending them on their way.

A young man named Jace recounts one of these experiences in his own life:
This And yesterday I went to be a savior to a legally blind man who got robbed and now is facing eviction. I went to see him and meet him and eat with him. Instead, I was an actor trying to protect myself from another needy, messed up person. He wanted a long friendship, and I gave him a check for his water bill, a meal, a little cash to cover what he lost in his billfold and a conversation instead. Jesus exposed my evil heart to myself as I fumbled . . .  I don't what to do about this guy. I've never had someone straight up tell me to my face, "I don't want to be another charity case. I want friendship." All the while I'm telling myself that I don't have time for another person in my life. . . Shapevine blog - The Radical Way

"I ministered to you" is condescending. I’m up here and you’re down here, lucky to receive whatever I am giving you. It creates an invisible social barrier that tells the person that they can not relate on the same level. It is also focused on what you are doing, and not on knowing the person. Many times this is just exactly what both parties really want. Both afraid of what kind of involvement really knowing the other person might require. It’s scary because the deeper you go, the dirtier you can get. But only in the fleshing out of a relationship, however awkward it may be, can real discipleship begin.

Consider the way of of the Savior.

Jesus went to the homes of people with bad reputations and spent time eating and drinking with them. He also went to the homes of proper religious leaders and shared meals there. He sometimes spent the night at the home of friends in Bethany and Capernaum. He even slept in a boat of fishermen. He sat and talked with a man that was considered a monster. When he travelled through Samaria he drank their water and slept in their villages when they let him. He slept outside many, many times.

Jesus touched people with leprosy. He stuck his fingers in a man’s ears and mouth. He was called a drunk. He held the dirty feet of others in his hands. Once, he picked up a severed body part from the ground.  He went days without taking a shower. He grabbed the hand of a dead person. He let a prostitute kiss his feet. He even offered to let someone stick their fingers in his wounds.

What’s obvious is that Jesus didn’t worry about getting dirty or getting too close to the gross. He didn’t fret about social conventions and didn’t care if others would not approve. He didn’t mind the clinginess of those who didn’t know how to respond to his goodness. He was at home breaking the status quo and challenging everyone’s comfort.

So what does this mean for us? It means taking the risk and taking the initiative to begin a new relationship with someone we don’t know. It means humbling ourselves enough to make a sacrifice of our time and our privacy. It means placing everyone, even unseemly people on the same level as ourselves. It means going beyond being inconvenienced to changing the direction of our week, or month, or year… or lifetime.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gospel presentations of Jesus #4

Jesus turned to the dinner host and said “When you serve a dinner or have a dinner party don’t invite your friends, nor your brothers and sisters. Don’t invite other people who are like you, nor your well-off neighbors. You know you will get invited back to their parties. Instead invite the poor, invite the physically handicapped, invite the disfigured and the blind. You will be blessed if you do this, because you know they can’t do anything to repay you. God himself will pay you back for your kindness on the day of the resurrection of the godly."

-- Somewhere in Luke 14

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Visitation Outreach (Part Three)

Another misconception about visitation is that it involves salesmanship. A number of church members avoid visitation because they feel like they can’t do this well. Perhaps they feel like they need to know more theology, or be able to explain the “plan of salvation” in a smooth and interesting way. Many Christians have never personally led another person to the Lord and feel unsure about when “it” happens. Some worry that there is going to be a lot of explaining or debating. In the end, some only participate in visitation when there is an experienced leader there to walk the person through each step.

Part of the reason I am posting the Gospel Presentations of Jesus series is to show that there was no formula or outline that Jesus followed. He never tried to sell the gospel. Instead, Jesus treated every person and circumstance as unique. The religious leaders got tripped up on formulas and theologies, but Jesus quickly cut through all that. Just read through the stories of salvation and the healing encounters people had with Jesus. The only common thing you will find is that they trusted Jesus and wanted to be near him. The good news message is loving God and trusting Jesus.

Visitation is not about going into someone’s home and closing the deal. It is about meeting and spending time with people, learning their names, their stories, their joys and their blemishes. It’s about entering into fellowship with them and beginning new friendships. It is not condescending. It’s about common ground, allowing them know you on the same level; your stories, your joys, your blemishes and your needs.

As you have fellowship with others, you are introducing them to fellowship with God. Your union with Jesus gives you identity. It is part of your story. It is who you are. As you tell what Jesus has done in your life, you present Him. As you tell what you have experienced of God and learned of God, you are announcing the good news. Jesus taught this. “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the One who sent me (Matthew 10:40).”

Getting people to make decisions by being a salesman and then passing them on to the organization for assimilation is not the way of Christ. Jesus commanded us to make disciples. That involves real fellowship, community, love and time.

Gospel presentations of Jesus #3

Jesus said “Enter in through the narrow door, because the wide door and the easy path lead to hell. So many people walk that path. The narrow door and the difficult path lead to life, but not many people find it.

-- somewhere in Matthew 7

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