Grace Church of Fredericksburg’s 2012 Service-Service

On December 2, 2012 Grace Church of Fredericksburg modified their regular service to obey our calling and serve our community. After a brief worship service, we were given Angel Tree slips and left to gather a gift or two or three, bring them back and wrap them as a congregation. Then we all shared lunch together. It was one of the best church services I’ve ever been too!

For more information visit www.GCOFOnline.com. Video by J.P. Sieck.

As The Missiological Church Becomes Mythological

genypants

Romans 12:2

2 And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Identifying Ourselves

As I peruse the various Christian Blogs and websites I find opportunity to ponder what really separates and identifies Christians from the rest of the world.  According to the Pew Report 78.4% of American’s claim to be Christian.  However, the church continue to identify ourselves by using the phrase “true believers” or ‘the true church”, etc…  Even within the church there are Calvinist, Catholics, Emergent Church, Armenian and the list goes on and on.  Just trying to find out what a church actually believes is trying at best, and that’s for the people who regularly attend.

What We Once Were

It seems to me that once upon a time, the culture knew what the church was and what we stood for.  Neighbors congregated and life revolved around the area worship center.  Children attended Sunday School, people consulted their pastor with life issues and we sang songs about faith, hope and living with God for eternity.  Once upon a time you were frowned upon if you didn’t say the Pledge of Allegiance or if you questioned God’s existence and now that tendency has reversed.  For all our “progress” in life, I sometimes envy times before my generation.  Times when teen parents, disrespect and ignorance wasn’t something that was idolized.  Now, it seems that television, music and the media consider those who take a stand against immorality as judgmental and closed minded.  Those who aren’t accepting of the decline in morality are labeled as “intolerant”.  Worse; some people labeled as church leadership seem to embrace this disdain for intolerance as an edict to change our own values.

The media relishes in the fact that the church gives them so much ammunition each day.  Just yesterday I was reading two articles in the same day; one about a local female youth pastor who had an affair with a male youth and another about an 80 year old ex-pastor who had inappropriate pictures of youth on his computer.   A few months ago there was a story of a pastor arrested for driving on a suspended license – had it been a construction worker no one would have cared about the article.  We live in a world that is constantly trying to destroy the mission and the purpose of the Church.

What We’re Becoming

Recently I was reading one of my favorite Christian blogs and the title had a vulgar word in it, as did the content of the post. (I’m not linking to it, because I don’t wish to give it any more attention than it already has)  The point of the post was about church’s hiring staff as Social Media Directors.  Interestingly the comment stream about the post was a mash-up of opinions about the validity of cursing in Christendom.  Not overwhelming, but ever present none-the-less was a majority voice that said that cursing was fine.  It was a byproduct of the culture and one commenter went as far as to say that Jesus used words that weren’t appropriate for His time.  I’m not sure from which part of Holy Scripture this knuckle-head derived that our Savior cursed like a sailor, but I’m hard-pressed to see it.  Now… I do see Christ as a man who easily put others in their place and was edgy at times.  A matter of fact it was that “Jesus” (the one in Mark) that I most identified with.  However the flow of the comments in that post proves a point, in and of itself.  The people reading concentrated more on the language used than the actual message.

I see no need to delve into a dissertation about if it’s a sin for Christians to curse.  My desire to reflect well on the Father pushes me to try and watch the garbage that can so easily flow from my mouth.  I have struggled with the words I use for years and in the past 10 years or so become good at monitoring which words I use.  If for no other reason than that outsiders of the Christian faith see it as one more hypocritical element of the Church – a people who are suppose to be set apart.

I ramble about this point ad nauseam because I think it’s one small piece of evidence of a Church trying too hard to become more worldly and do so at the every expense of those we should be trying to reach.

The Barna Group posted information from a recent round of surveys and it was re-printed in a book called Unchristian (which I highly recommend).  Here’s just part of their findings:

Now, however, nearly two out of every five young outsiders (38 percent) claim to have a “bad impression of present-day Christianity.” One-third of young outsiders said that Christianity represents a negative image with which they would not want to be associated. One out of every six young outsiders (17 percent) indicates that he or she maintains “very bad” perceptions of the Christian faith. This group is at least three times larger than it was just a decade ago. (Pg 24)

The point is that I think the Church is loosing the people that we’re trying so desperately to fit in with.  In some cases the American Church is dimming as the lighthouse on the shore.  Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am struggling with feelings as I write this post.  I desperately want to engage people where they are – but that doesn’t mean I need to succumb to  the depths of the American Culture in order to reach people.  I’ve become convinced that we’re loosing our children because they see little difference in us, than they do in the world, but the world offers less guilt.

Regaining Our Mission

1 Peter 2:9

9 But ye are a elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

We are a people set apart, a people who were never directed to be chameleons.  I believe that we are called to honor the Father with what we do.  We instructed to minister to the sick, the wounded, the widows and orphans.  And many, many times it’s hard. I enjoy my times in Uruguay and Haiti being with other Christians and people who truly dedicate themselves to their church.  A people who are dying for the Words of Christ.  It’s… easy to minister there.

Here, at home its far more of a challenge and I want to  to join with other Christians and try and reach my generation and the one following, even though the barriers are far greater.  It’s far too easy to loose the attention of an ADD generation.  A generation of iPod and video games – so we continue to reach out use podcasts on the iPod and Facebook and the rest, but we do so without loosing our greatest reason for being here – to Glorify the Son.

It’s so easy to slip into the ease of traditional church services, with the mantra of “build it and they will come”.  Well here’s the truth – they aren’t coming.  They are leaving.  Your children and mine are at risk and we need to join together to pray for direction and grace as we try to minister where they physically are, but not  were they are anthropologically.

Where the church of yesteryear was standing at street corners handling out tracts, the street corners are now on Facebook and Twitter.  That doesn’t mean we neglect the power of a united church.  We cannot.  The social tools of today are opportunities to reach people where they are, and use that portal to engage them into a relationship with a church family.

I do not see one type of engagement exclusive to all others.  The real power that Christ has granted the church is that we are parts of the Body and therefore have the ability to contribute in different ways.

Let’s stand together and believe that Christ is bigger than any cultural barriers and that we’ll find a way to use the mass-media to engage the culture, as well as the power of authentic relationships.

Amen.

Balanced Flame

flamegrill

The Center Flame

One of my favorite pass times is cooking on my grill.  I’m not especially good at it, but I’ll keep trying.  My grill of several years has been slowly needing replacement parts.  From heart dividers to o-rings, I’ve put a bit of money into maintaining the system.  It’s ok, none of the parts or pieces to date have been that expensive.

However, I noticed today that in the center of the grill there is now a very high, very intense flame.  That centralized flame forces me to move the steaks and hamburgers around the flame and forces me to keep them away from the center.

Upon further evaluation, I found that one of the channels that host the gas, has rusted through in the middle.  Therefore the intense flame is a result of a broken system.  A high concentration of gas has drawn from the rest of the system making it imbalanced and not heating the grill equally.

Systematic Approach to Heating

As I pondered this it showed an obvious allegory or what I think is problematic system of evangelism in the post-modern world.  See, in order to properly cook the meat I have to have a constant flame at a moderate temperature.  If I were to leave the meat too far from the flame it will never cook.  Sure it’ll be exposed to the heat, but not sufficiently enough to thoroughly cook the steak and get it to a point that it’s tasteful and useful.  Transversely, if I were to put the steak directly on the intense flame, the steak only burns on the outside, leaving the inside uncooked, distasteful, scorched , a waste of the heating system’s efforts and a wasted opportunity.

Failing Flame

Often times when Christians try to share their heart to an Outsider, their flame is too high.  The intensity is a result of something broken in our heating mechanism.  What’s broken varies for Believers.  I feel that often it’s a lack of a pre-established relationship, a desire to “win-over” someone through our own efforts instead of letting Christ work or a lack of patience to keep the heat low and constant to ensure that we influence a well done approach.

Saving people is up to Christ.  He provides the opportunities and the desire in the Outsider to heed His call.  Often times having a balance in our heating system – with all parts working well -do I create the opportunity and environment to witness.  If my flame is too high, such as being so religious that I simply burn people without gradually warming them from the inside, I become irrelevant.  My religious element maybe high and it’s taking away from the other heating elements, such as personal relationship, humor, intellect, etc…  I don’t wish to be misunderstood here.  My Faith is foremost.  It’s what propels me to live as I live, I want people to see me as differently.  But I don’t want the “religious” effects (being seen as self righteous, legalistic or hypocritical) to overshadow a balanced life.

There are a lot of Christians who overwhelm Outsiders with scriptures, judgmental attitudes and a desire to dictate their actions.  They sometimes lack the lifestyle that compels Outsiders to ask what’s different.  We loose relevance in other peoples lives when we’re too on-fire and we tend to burn them.

I pray that I am a constant balanced Christian that doesn’t burn those around me in order to be a small part of the systematic approach of the gospel that creates a useful and tasteful member of the faith.

“Col. 4:6 – Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

The Effectiveness of Focus on the Family and 2010 Superbowl

My Superbowl Expectations

On Sunday night, I like many Americans, tuned in to the 2010 Superbowl.  With anticipation I watched the commercial spots to see how offensive they would be this year.  I wasn’t let down, I was pretty offended after the first 90 second, back to back underwear commercials.

I watched with special interest for the controversial Tim Tebow Focus on the Family ad spot. 

See, I went into the evening knowing that most of the ads would be sleazy GoDaddy-ish marketing ploys.  I knew that most would portray men as morons (which they did) and women as somewhat more intellectual, but still ever-present sources of sin.

The commercials were designed to be just a tad controversial, because as any good marketer will tell you – controversy and offense will typically yield the highest emotional response.  Emotional responses drive memory recall.  Offensiveness yields conversations that outlast the 30 second ad spot.

Tim Tebow – Ad Spot

 

Iniquitous or Powerful?

Admittedly upon watching the Tim Tebow spot, we had to rewind it twice and play it again.  We had a few couples from church there as well and most said “Is that what 2.5 million will get you?  I hope that’s the start to a series…  What was the message?”

I had to think it though, but I though it was very clever – from a marketing standpoint. 

I think too many Christians wanted a “Yeah!  In your face!” kind of moment and didn’t get one.  What we got was far more effective.  The point of the commercial was seemingly not the 30 second spot but the larger message.   A message that was delivered weeks before the ad and will be discussed afterwards. 

Focus on the Family used this as an opportunity to say “Let’s celebrate Life” and “I can’t imagine not having the happiness that I enjoy because of my child.”  Those are powerful messages and are often lost by the sign carrying, name calling, seemingly angry Christians that are normally portrayed by the general media.  I think there is a place for showing the world and legislators that there is a strong stance against infant-murder.  But, for those who are not in the heat of battle – for those who are on the fence about this issue – they would most likely not be offended about this commercial. 

Trying to reach someone’s heart is most often not done through offense. 

I think anyone who was not on the extreme of this issue one way or the other would say “What was the Pro-Choice people so afraid of?  Is this it?”   It shows a special type of shallowness and fear of the truth to have such an exaggerated response to such a pure message.  I think that’s a brilliant way to get to get the real message across that life is precious. 

The Desire to Offend

Christians are far too eager to offend non-believers. It feeds our self righteousness, it gets a response, it makes us feel accomplished.  However, we fail to remember how we feel when the ACLU takes away our rights or attacks our way of believing.  Has anyone ever been converted away from God because non-Christian organizations offended us or attacked us?  No.

Why then do we feel the need to attack other people in the interest of changing their hearts?  Conversion are done by God and we are vessels.  Let’s not strive together to work against Christ in this process.  I think the simple message of “Life is Precious” is exactly what would have appeared in red letters on a Superbowl Sunday.

Starting Off Right

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I’m not a traditionalist.  I’m excited to be a Christian and know there are times to be solemn, but it’s not the norm.  I’ve often wondered why weddings seem so similar to funerals.

Someone posted this video on Facebook and so far it’s had over 4.5 million views.  Why?  Because people love different approaches, energy and happiness are contagious.  I wish I had thought of this…or was able to dance.  Although it’s evident in this video, that the inability to dance was not lending itself to inhibition here. 

What This World Needs

Casting Crowns sings a song called “What This World Needs”.  Here are the lyrics – I don’t think they need explanation:

What This World Needs

Casting Crowns

What this world needs
Is not another one hit wonder with an axe to grind,
Another two bit politician peddlin` lies,
Another three ring circus society.
What this world needs
Is not another sign wavin` super saint that’s better than you,
Another ear pleasin` candy man afraid of the truth,
Another prophet in an Armani suit.

What this world needs
Is a Savior who will rescue,
A Spirit who will lead,
A Father who will love them in their time of need.
A Savior who will rescue,
A Spirit who will lead,
A Father who will love,
That’s what this world needs.

What this world needs
Is for us to care more about the inside than the outside.
Have we become so blind that we can’t see?
God’s gotta change her heart before He changes her shirt.
What this world needs
Is for us to stop hiding behind our relevance.
Blendin` in so well that people can’t see the difference
And it’s the difference that sets the world free.
What this world needs
Is a Savior who will rescue,
A Spirit who will lead,
A Father who will love them in their time of need.
A Savior who will rescue,
A Spirit who will lead,
A Father who will love,
That’s what this world needs.

(Spoken)
People aren’t confused by the gospel,
They’re confused by us.
Jesus is the only way to God,
But we are not the only way to Jesus.
This world doesn’t need
My tie, my hoodie,
My denomination, or my translation of the Bible,
They just need Jesus.
We can be passionate about what we believe,
But we can’t strap ourselves to the gospels.
Because we’re slowing it down
Jesus is going to save the world,
But maybe the best thing we can do
Is just get out of the way.

What this world needs
Is a Savior who will rescue,
A Spirit who will lead,
A Father who will love them in their time of need.
A Savior who will rescue,
A Spirit who will lead,
A Father who will love,
That’s what this world needs.
Jesus is our Savior,
That’s what this world needs
Father’s arms around you,
That’s what this world needs
That’s what this world needs

The “Overflow” Show

I found this site called the “Overflow Show”, which seems to be a great ministry option for podcasters.  Here’s how they describe themselves:

The best ideas from the 40 best books on evangelism in the world. The Overflow show is a free 5 minute audio podcast for christians which teach us how to naturally "overflow" into our non-Christian friends’ lives with the gospel. Each show is different and brings new and helpful ideas. Topics include: how to transition to talking about Jesus; intellectual answers to objections about our faith; and many more. From answering questions, to removing doubts, the Overflow Show seeks to give you confidence and connect you better with non-believers.

I’m looking forward to listing to this in the future!