Saturday, September 28, 2013

GREAT STORY TELLERS

People who are looking for a church that will minister to their kids are not necessarily looking for professional staff people, multimedia and exotic play centers. Those things are nice, but kids already have McDonald’s, Wonderland, Cineplex and bright, colorful, shallow moral stories. Why compete with what they already have?


Instead, where are the great storytellers? Where are the original people who can tell a great story about God in their life? Where are the teachers who get to know their students outside the classroom? Where are the teachers who pray for the students and track their lives?


It’s often easier to follow a lesson plan and put on a teacher hat for 40 minutes than to have a meaningful relationship with students. Psychiatrist Gordon Livingston has this to say about what older people have to offer the younger.

Attempts I have read to obtain oral histories from elderly people facing the silence of the grave make interesting reading as long as people stick to the stories of their lives. The fatal moment for these conversations comes when the interviewer asks, “What would you like to say to those who follow you?” or “What have you learned in your long sojourn on the planet?” or, worse yet, “What is the secret of your success (as defined by accumulation of wealth, longevity, length of marriage, etc.)?” The old person is irresistibly drawn to tell us the moral of his or her story, which usually consists of a collection of lamentable clichés that drain whatever meaning we might have otherwise derived from the events they have described: “Do the work you love,” “Never go to bed angry,” “Embrace uncertainty,” “Always look on the bright side,” and on and on.[i]

I wonder how many times we replace clichés and predictable banter for a real testimony? Lifelong relationships with children and youth go much further if people will become great storytellers and befriend the next generation. Instead, we often relegate this responsibility to children and youth workers.

What exactly is Christian Education?

The history of Christian education begins not with the birth of Jesus Christ but with the mind of Christ. All truth is God's truth and thus Christian education begins with God. For this reason the scope of the history of Christian education spans the whole breadth of civilization beginning with God.[ii]

Listen to a couple examples of what the ancient Psalmists knew.


Psalms 145:
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.


Psalms 71:
17 O God, from my youth you have taught me,
    and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs,
    O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
    your power to all those to come.

Everyone who walks with God has a great story to tell. What’s your story? Who are you going to tell? There is still an oral tradition to maintain.
            

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

NEXT TO JESUS



Luke 9:
46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”


If you want to be a great church, put the children and the vulnerable in the center next to Jesus. He took a small child and set him in the middle next to himself. “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcome me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

We might be good at singing about the greatness of God and inviting Jesus to be central. We might preach this at great length. But, if we do not go a step further and bring the most vulnerable to the best seats at the table, we dishonor God.

Last week we shared our Downtown Campus service with Central United Church. While the guest band from Toronto put on a concert, I saw a little girl dancing freely around the aisles. Then in our Ford City Campus, I saw Paul. He lives in a supportive home environment because of his disabilities. When he walked in late and bounced to the front, he gave a giant smile and thumbs up to Suzie on the worship team. He doesn’t know much about protocol, but he is so welcome in our midst. When people use cuss words in appreciation for a great sermon, I see their heart and once again am aware that Jesus is welcome here. As Charlie Robinson says, ‘it’s the highest praise from the lowest point.’

Church should not be intimidating for newbies and the ones who don’t know any better. We need to let the kids feel like they own the place. If all goes well, they will inherit it.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

BECOMING A GREAT SMALL CHURCH


It would be great if every service was packed out, but it might not mean we are a great church. With a national average of weekly attendance at 75 or less people, many may not achieve greatness in the numbers game. But every church can be a great small church!



We just need to know what true greatness is.


Luke 9:
46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”


Imagine Jesus at a pastors conference where they were arguing about who has the greatest ministry. One says they are running five weekend services and have fifty staff members. Another says they have a $20 million building paid off and are giving $2 million a year to missions.

Jesus goes over to the pastor shrinking in the corner. He has 30 people on a good day and needs a new roof on their aging shack of a building. They need a miracle just to put a new roof on. He goes unnoticed and lacks the attention that the big guys get. He has spent many days feeling alone and unsuccessful.  Jesus thinks he’s great!

Jesus likes the little guys and loves those who honour them. If you want to be part of a great church, understand the great view that Jesus has of her. Then join Jesus in honoring and caring for her.

If we really comprehend Jesus’ idea of greatness how might we change the way we do church?


Thursday, September 19, 2013

DISORGANIZED RELIGION

There was a time when denominations and religions were carefully defined and kept at a distance from others. A defense of the faith had more to do with proving that your differences were superior and correct and little to do with uniting the body of Christ across borders.


Those who do not embrace organized religion but consider themselves to be spiritual are growing in number. However, they may in fact be embracing disorganized religion. Somewhere in the mix, we need definition and containment. You cannot be haphazard about truth.

I am not religious, but I am spiritual’ is often a reactionary statement to the excesses and failures of church in general. 


It may be that we have spent too much time studying our dysfunction instead of praying and living out the change that God calls for. It’s true that fewer Canadians attend church every week, but that is only part of the reality.

In his 2012 Project Canada Survey, Reginald Bibby made the following statements:

 No less than 2 in 3 people across the country say that their religious or spiritual beliefs are important to the way they live their lives.

 What’s more, 1 in 2 report that that they engage in personal religious or spiritual practices at least once a month.

Bibby concludes that it’s not just a case of Canadians opting for spirituality over organized religion. “Obviously some are. But our research has found that as many as 6 in 10 people who seldom attend services are open to greater involvement.
However, they also tell us that they need to find that groups address their central spiritual, personal, and relational needs – beginning with good ministry to their children.”[i]

Did you catch that last statistic? 60% of those who seldom attend services are open to greater involvement. They’re not attending because their needs are not being addressed, starting with good ministry to their children.

Can we do anything to strengthen the value of church gatherings and ministries? Absolutely! I think it starts with rediscovering what greatness is.


Monday, September 16, 2013

DOORMATS AND DOORKEEPERS


Psalms 84:10
10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
NIV





There are wicked places and systems in this world that turn people into doormats, something to be trampled underfoot and muddied.  There are places of business, social circles, neighbourhoods, lifestyles and even churches that are extremely appealing but in the end leave you lying on the ground.



These are the ‘tents of the wicked’ that everyone raves about.  Places and systems that promise to fill your every desire, but drop you and trample you underfoot when your purpose has been used up.

In the Psalm, the doorkeeper was not our modern idea of a butler or doorman.  The doorkeeper was not the security guard or the bouncer.

Rather, the Psalmist was talking about one who sat longingly on the threshold of the house looking in and desiring to be part of things.  In the sense that the Psalm describes, Lazarus is a model of one who sat looking in.  He was a ‘doorkeeper’ in the true meaning of the word.

The teaching is this – it is better to be a beggar at the door to God’s House than to be a rich man in the tents of the wicked.

It is better to suffer and look into the Kingdom of God than to enter a false Kingdom where you can be the big shot. 

If in all your life you only spend one day looking into God’s House, you will find more pleasure and peace than you will in 3 years full-time in a circus tent that the world offers to you.

In God’s House, we have no doormats.  There are no little people that you can safely walk on.

The dirt and mud you bring gets washed from your feet by the greatest One in the House.  The Master kneels before each who enters and washes the dirt from their feet.

Those who move beyond the threshold and enter the House learn to show hospitality the same ways the Master does.  Jesus teaches us to wash each other’s feet.

We are all like beggars sitting at the threshold of God’s Kingdom.  Our greatest joys in life come in humility.  Like beggars we look at the wealth and warmth of the King’s Table and find ourselves invited in to a party in our Honour.

What love the Master has for the lowest and the least.  You are not a doormat.  God calls you to come to His door and look inside.  Nothing in the world compares to the things you will see when you look into God.



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