Future Church - adapted from Glynis LaBarre- "American Baptist"

Posted on by Thomas Smith

I am summarizing this article from American Baptist for this blog. It touches on a real issue our Church and most are dealing with.

Rev. LaBarre uses a great metaphor in her article about Future Church; Rip Van Winkle. If you remember the story, it is about a young man who takes a nap and wakes up decades later to find a world that completely baffled him.  We are experiencing the same without the benefit of the nap.

Everything is in exponential change. Not cumulative, not additive, not sequential.... Exponential change, Change to the second power. C2. The first typewriter patent took a 100 years to become a functional machine. Every "I Phone like" technology has taken less than 10. There are numerous examples. but C2 is becoming C3 , raised to the next higher power with Artificial computer intelligence etc.

But the Church is still largely locked into many mid 19th century systems and methods and struggling to cope. Rip said " Who am I? I'm not myself! I seem like someone else. I was myself but when I awoke everything has changed, I'm changed". Displacement is overwhelming but we must hold to what we know is true. God is the same God and is as real to those seeking him todayas in any generation. We must reground ourselves in truth and start to adjust to "Future Church".

It's here, thousands of millenial Christians are using new ways to connect and share Christ and bring the same Gospel to tens of thousands,(millions?) of post moderns who are without any accurate understanding of the purpose found in Christ's life, death, and resurrection. They don't judge success by numbers gathered (perhaps by likes online?) or how long they connect or even if they have never physically met the person. Such is the nature of this time we live in and the Future Church that is being created. Each time there is contact made for Christ,  is seen as an opportunity to witness the forgiveness and love of God through Christ,  trusting God to meet them wherever they are, even in cyberspace.

Those of us who are waking from the nap can be part of the Future Church by encouraging, loving and supporting these efforts and these millenials to recreate the 21 century church. We may not understand the changes like Rip Van Winkle but "the times they are a changin" to use a Bob Dylan line.

The good news is that Rip awakened and adjusted and lived a redefined life. We can and must too, to be a part of the Lord's work and continue the work of the Future Church.

Pastor Tom

Go and Tell :Outreach and the Church not being a "Gated community" by Joe McKeever

Posted on by Thomas Smith

Why Outreach Matters in the Church
by Joe McKeever “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14).
I live in a gated community of 25 homes.
This little neighborhood is surrounded by a high fence and entered through a gate which requires either a remote sensor or a code. Homeowners pay a monthly fee to cover upkeep on the grounds and streets and a few services. We rarely see anyone in this little ghetto other than residents and service people.
Therein lies the metaphor.
At Christmastime, as Bertha and I were placing decorations on the outside of the home, I mentioned that since we live in a cove–a tiny cul-de-sac among five other homes–almost no one will see the wreaths and lights and greenery. “We will see it,” she said. And I agreed. That, I expect, is why most people erect a Christmas tree in the first place. For themselves.
Churches do this, to their shame. They do programs and ministries which no one will ever partake of except themselves. They plan elaborate pageants and oratorios and cantatas and wild game suppers and marriage retreats, and then fail to tell anyone other than the immediate family.
Then they wonder why so many pews went unfilled and the response to their evangelistic invitations was so tiny.
How will they respond to something they don’t know about?
We justify and excuse this in a hundred ways: Our job is to provide the program; let others handle the publicity. We bought an ad in the local paper. The television station did a feature on this (last year, or was it the year before?). People know we’re here. We put it on the sign in front of the church. If they want it, they’ll come.
None of this washes, of course. They are all flimsy excuses for not doing the most basic of all our assignments; “Tell the people.”
Our Lord said to the man previously known as the Gadarene demoniac, “Go home and tell your people what great things the Lord has done for you and how He had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19).
Bertha Smith once wrote a book on the great Shantung revival of China which she titled, “Go Home and Tell,” the title taken from that text. The book was and is a classic.
Churches justify the huge disproportion of the budget spent on themselves by saying “it’s important to keep the home base strong.” We answer, “For what? If we’re not going to send out missionaries, if we’re not going to go out and reach our community and bring in the unchurched, why do we need the home base to be strong?”
The Lord is not pleased, and has been known to take matters into His own hands.
I suspect the Jerusalem church was in danger of existing just for itself. They certainly showed no evidence of “going into all the world to preach the gospel,” as each of the four gospels and Acts 1 record our Lord commanding.
So, the Lord decided to scatter them. “On that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria...” (Acts 8:1).
Then we read, “So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some... who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also...” (Acts 11:19-20).
The persecution scattered believers. The believers shared the gospel wherever they went. And thus the Gentiles received the good news also. Out of that church in Antioch, the Lord soon called Barnabas and Saul as the first missionaries (Acts 13:1ff).
In Heaven, those who paid the ultimate price in the persecution will be amply rewarded, a promise we may take to the bank. “They will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14), said our Lord.
Throughout the history of the church, persecution sometimes turned out to be a wonderful way of scattering believers and motivating them to share the gospel. It’s painful of course, and no one would dare pray for such. But it has happened, and from eternity’s viewpoint, the pain was worth the product.
Back to the gated community...
A couple of weeks after we married, Bertha and I sent out invitations to the neighbors in this complex inviting them to an open house. We want to meet our neighbors, we said. They came, we’re glad to report. And we had a wonderful afternoon, followed by a dinner at a local restaurant with two of the couples.
We have good scriptural precedent for our open house, if one should be needed. When Matthew, also called Levi, met Jesus, that same evening he brought his friends and colleagues in the tax collection business together for a dinner with the Lord (Matthew 9:9ff).
Whatever it takes, and whatever form the invitations take, let us tell others about our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ. And let us start with family and friends.
And lest anyone should wonder...
It is important that the church minister to its members. Throughout the gospels and the epistles, God’s people are commanded to minister to “one another.” Dan Crawford and Al Meredith wrote a book called “One Anothering,” in which they pulled out 31 such statements from the New Testament in which believers are instructed to care for one another. These commands include...
...praying for one another, washing the feet of each other, loving one another, and being members of one another. Also devotion, honor, not judging, being of the same mind, and receiving one another. Admonish, greet, wait, care, serve, not bite or devour, not provoke, not envy, bear burdens and bear with one another.
So, it’s not either/or but both/and.
The church has been so out of balance on this for generations that we are now paying the piper in terms of declining numbers and waning influence of the church near and far.
Time to open the gate and get outside

 

Jesus is for those who hate Christmas

Posted on by Thomas Smith

An excerpt from a Blog which shares a good viewpoint. Pastor Tom

Christmas often brings out the gloomy side of me as well. I’m reminded of one of my favorite families who, because of cancer, no longer has a dad around the house. I’m reminded of some of my favorite people who, after many years of patiently waiting, are still single. I’m reminded of my sister, who has been dealing with migraine headaches for years without much relief. I’m reminded of my own ongoing battles with intense physical anxiety.

After the tree is down and the wrapping paper put away and the music silenced and the egg nog polished off, all the problems still remain. I think one of the reasons we cling so tightly to Christmas is that it helps us forget about our problems for awhile. For a few, brief days, everything seems as it should be. We long for a white Christmas because the snow covers up all the mud and muck.

My propensity toward Christmas gloom is one of the reasons I am so grateful for Jesus. Not in a “Jesus is the reason for the season,” kind of way, but in a, “Jesus is a holy warrior,” kind of way.

This morning I was reading in Matthew 8-9. In these chapters Jesus cleanses a leper, heals a centurion’s servant, heals Peter’s mother-in-law, calms a storm, drives demons out of two raving madmen, heals a paralytic, raises a girl from the dead, heals two blind men, and heals a man who is unable to speak. In the comments section of The Gospel Transformation Bible it says:

Wherever Jesus goes he brings the reign of God, and where God reigns, the invisible powers of the universe in rebellion against him are banished and left powerless to do anyone ultimate harm…. Since believers are united with Christ, they share Christ’s victory over evil.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the true meaning of Christmas. Wherever Jesus goes he brings the reign of God! Christmas is ultimately about the kingdom of God coming to this sad, broken, sin-marred world. Christmas is ultimately about a baby who would grow into a mighty warrior–a warrior who would crush Satan, undo sadness, defeat death, and ensure that it would be always Christmas and never winter.

For right now we may suffer. Now we experience cancer and migraines and anxiety and singleness and sadness and loneliness and poverty. Now we are afflicted by sin and Satan and our flesh. But not always.

Ultimately, Christmas should give the most hope to those who hate Christmas. Things won’t always be this way. As it says in 1 John 3:8, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Those are such sweet words. Christmas is a celebration of war! Jesus himself has declared open season on Satan. He came to destroy all the works of the evil one. He came to wipe away tears and heal broken bodies and lift up despondent hearts and drive out fear and destroy loneliness.

If you’re feeling gloomy, take heart. Jesus is for those who hate Christmas.

Stephen Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church

5 Things your pastor wants for Christmas by Pastor Jay Sampson

Posted on by Thomas Smith

Top 5 (Okay, 6) Things Your Pastor Really Wants for Christmas:

1. For Our Eyes to be Opened

A friend pointed out that Christmas is particularly a time in which we are reminded of the Omnipresence of God. He is and has been everywhere at all times in all of history and the future and we remember at Christmas the “fulness of time” in which he chose to reveal to us that Messiah had come. A gift that many pastors are praying for is that our people (and all people) will stop and consider the humility and wonder of God revealing Himself to men.

2. That We Keep Going

I think, as a pastor, the thing I typically want the most for my people (and the thing that I am consistently reminded I cannot provide for them) is that they never ever give up. We all face challenges and trials and disappointments. My desire for my people and for myself is that we not turn back. Some of the greatest and sweetest truths of God go from hypotheses on a page to convictions of our soul by the God-orchestrated and God-shepherded trials of our lives. I want to know and I want my people to know the deep, saturating truth of God's love for His children that is higher, wider and deeper than they can even fathom. We only get there if we never give up. I pray that the Spirit of God empower His people to remain in the faith.

3. An iPad!

Just kidding! Wanted to make sure you were still reading... But iPads are cool...

4. For Us to See the Miracle

Christmas particularly gives us the opportunity to reflect on the “mega-truths” that echo from the manger. This baby was a cacophony of the miraculous. From the lineage that was prophesied to the location of his birth and the logistics of how it came to be is a script of unparalleled depth and orchestration. All this from a Sovereign who was bringing about the miraculous in the lives of his children – their rescue and deliverance from sin. Be it today or any day, many pastors pray that those who have not received the miracle of their rescue will behold it – and those who HAVE received the miracle will live thankful lives.

5. Presence and Peace

Another friend has been through a year that has left indelible marks in the foundation of his faith. The result has been a conviction of "Immanuel." God IS with us. No matter where we are. To the end of the age. In hardship – He is with us. In joy – He is with us. In loneliness – He is with us. In dismay – He is with us. And really, hand-in-hand with this reality is a heart-cry of many in ministry: Peace. Peace that doesn't simply calm us down in busy times, but SLOWS us down. That we and our people would find and dwell in Jehovah Shalom and enjoy the Sabbath rest that is Jesus. My friend said it well, "I believe that hurry is the greatest enemy to a life lived with Jesus today." High on the list is a belonging and a rest that flavors every aspect of our lives and the lives of our people.

6. To Fall in Love with God's Glory

At the heart of most pastors I know is a real desire for the best for their people. If they would receive any gift from their people this year it would be that they fall in unassailable love with the glory of God. The love for His glory would create a people who embody much of the things on this list. In wanting the best for ourselves and for our people, wisdom comes to realize that – though the world clamors after many things – we and they will receive ALL that we need when we truly pursue one thing: The Kingdom of our Omniscient, Empowering, Miraculous, Ever-Present, Peace-Giving God.

While I am sure there are many more items that could be added to a pastor's secret wish list for Christmas, they pretty much condense to one thing: a desire for our people to love God with their heart, mind, soul and strength and love each other as themselves (call it the Luke 10:27 wish list). We want for ourselves and for our people the joy of walking in full fellowship with our Savior.

Jay Sampson is the Teaching Elder at Heritage Church in Shawnee, Oklahoma