If you are interested…I am a senior Leadership of a faith community…this is an articulation of what drives us in who and what we do!

1Some of my friends around the country as well as some of my University students have been curious about the faith community that I lead here in the state of Washington.

Here’s a link to a more extensive definition of who we are and what we do…our core values and common purpose and mission.  

If you are interested, it will give you a broader picture, a snapshot of that which we believe Jesus has given us.

P@M-logo2

 

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The Sacrament of the PARTY? Hmmm…

1I am a HUGE fan of Hugh Halter.  He and his buddy Mat Smay wrote a book that inspired and encouraged me at a critical time in my leadership journey.  You can check it out yourself OR read the summary pages that I wrote here Chapter by Chapter Overview of Tangible Kingdom.

Hugh has written another book that I have NOT read yet (I’m having a few shipped to me even as I write this).  He “previewed” the book on a missional website that I frequent with a short article entitled, “The Sacrament of the Party.”  NOW, as a pure extrovert and self-confessed relational addict, that got my attention.  Take a peek yourself at what Hugh says,

“Somewhere, everywhere, people are connecting socially. From the beginning of time and throughout the scriptures, God’s people patterned their lives around celebration, feasts, social gatherings, levity, story-telling, eating, drinking, laughter, and listening. For God’s ancient fans, levity, sobriety, and a good ol’ fashion party helped create a social connection that makes spiritual connection possible. It used to be Five O’clock somewhere, but sadly, over the last century, the church is the last one to the party. I remember growing up as a Nazarene boy hearing that ‘good Christians’ don’t smoke, chew or have friends that do. As such, I didn’t venture out to the movies, look at art, play cards, and I had to listen to all my secular music undercover. My friends were Christians…all of them. As I entered training for ministry my reading of Jesus’ life didn’t square with a seminary prof who suggested that all wine in the New Testament was simply grape juice or the denominational leaders who wanted us to plant churches for them, but only if we abstain from having a beer with neighbor. It just seemed that at every turn, my old perception of being committed to Jesus didn’t allow me to follow Him or live like He lived. Now that I’m a big boy, not much has changed. Except for one small adjustment. I now pattern my holiness after the human life of Jesus instead of the traditions of any certain church, outdated ministerial code of ethics or leadership definitions born of prohibition, or the subjective and selective literalism so many of us grew up under. I simply want to be holy as Jesus was holy. And for Him, leadership, influence, witness, the gospel as good news, the new covenant, life according the heart & spirit instead of the law and his main message of the kingdom of God was no longer a matter of eating and drinking, which now meant you can do exactly that. Enjoy life, faith, friends, great food and drink and yes all while being holy.”

Hugh is the USA Director for the “missions training” network called FORGE. Forge believes, and rightly so, that we are experiencing life much like the early Jesus followers did in the first century.  Hugh writes, “in a pure missionary context the church can no longer ask the secular culture to act the part of the missionary and come to us and our church services anymore. We must be the ‘sent’ ones again. We must be the missionaries.”

Amen to that!  His point?  A missionary starts NOT in the hallowed halls of the already convinced but where the people in culture are in an attempt to “connect, identify, and learn the context of one another’s story.” We call that CONTEXTUALIZATION.

This is what I wrote a number of years ago on the subject of contextualization,

“To “contextualize” means that you enter the world of another…you start to care about their lives…you come to understand what makes them “tick”…you stop the tourist life and become a resident. That’s why this is an important topic in terms of life living for Jesus. If we are just “passing through” this world, then why care? Why build relationships? Why do any of the things we do as a faith community with a passion and/or vision for God presence/power to impact people’s lives? Those who don’t “contextualize” build bunkers and fortresses to keep the rest of the world out and wait until the battle is over. Unfortunately, that’s not been the way God has acted in history. God is not a detached God…He has infiltrated human life at every intersection. In fact, one of if not the most powerful and history-shaking aspects of God’s work in the world is undoubtedly the incarnation – and please understand, the incarnation is all about contextualization – for the ultimate expression of contextualization is “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).”

Hugh quotes another good, missional guy, Alan Hirsch who has said, “PARTY IS SACRAMENT” when he starts to think out loud about contextualization.  He says,

“Many people have asked, “Hugh, what is the one key to turning a typical small group into a true missionary community?” Another asks, “Hugh, how did all those people find faith..really how did it actually happen?” Another asks, “how do you disciple people to live more human lives like Jesus?” My answer is always the same. “You have to teach and disciple people in how to throw a good party. It’s where everything starts.” It’s where we learn to listen instead of judge. Where we become advocates instead of adversaries and where people cease to be targets or projects because they are our friends. Remember, when teaching about the gospel of the kingdom, our living metaphors are that of a wedding feast, a banquet, and a supper. It’s time to include this in our own spiritual formation.”

Now, I wasn’t born yesterday (in fact, it was 61 years full of yesterdays).  For Hugh to use the word, “sacrament” is bound to scare off or irritate a few.  I don’t think that is his point as much as it is that you and I as Jesus followers have been “commissioned and called” to live out the purposes of God.  Those moments where we rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit as well as find ways to “incarnate” the truth and grace of Jesus in and through our lives become holy indeed.  I have written before on the issue of sacrament and what that means for Jesus followers.  You can read that article here!  For now, I’m going to think about this new “take” on following Jesus in daily life.  Who knows…maybe a party is a sacrament in some sort of manner…yeah, it doesn’t necessarily “fit” in a classical sense of the word…EVEN SO, it does give the love of Jesus, the grace of God opportunity to do what the sacraments do – embody God’s Word, release God’s grace, give an experience of God’s promises…

“A means of grace is a way God creates faith, bring about conversion, justification, and sanctification.”

“A Sacrament is a sacred act – instituted by God Himself; containing certain visible means connected with His Word; by which God offers, gives and seals unto us the forgiveness of sins…essentially a sacrament is a means of grace.”

It sounded like a good idea in my head!

1It sounded like a good idea in my head!

“With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.”  Romans 12:1-2 JB Phillips

It was just a few days ago and I was putting the finishing touches on a Sunday morning “talk” (aka sermon).  I was stuck…not on content but on the introduction.  I was spending an inordinate amount of time on how to kick it off.  As you know, introductions IN ANY public presentation is one of the keys to a good speech.  What happens in the first three minutes, in many respects, either sinks or keeps the ship afloat.  So, as I was thinking about the introduction I had this great idea to check out a comic website of which I was familiar in order to discover some creative ideas on how to get people to “smile” in the first few minutes. There enters my idea…I went to the site, did some searching on some of the categories they had and I saw this one that I thought would work.  Immediately, I thought to myself, “hey, this got me laughing hysterically in my head, it’s going to work great this weekend.”  All week I had anticipated that, what I found funny, would go over the same way when I spoke it out loud to the people gathered in our worship community. You can probably see what’s coming…the day came and you know what happened?  Crickets!  Yep, maybe a chuckle or two (that I couldn’t hear) but nothing close to what I expected.

That got me thinking (again, I know that’s dangerous) about ALL the things we entertain in our heads about our lives.  There isn’t a day that goes by where we focus on something that ends up consuming our attention.  Sometimes it consumes small amounts of time and energy…sometimes TONS of time and energy.  Our minds are tricky things.  We had “two sides” to our brains – one that is dedicated to order and one that is dedicated to creativity.  For many of us, once we start focusing on something (the order side that chooses, in most instances, what to focus on) our creative side “takes over” and expands what could be innocent into something potentially diabolical.  Permit me to illustrate:

Much of the time, the things that we purchase (whether it be a car, computer, video game, book or shoes, it’s all the same) begin to be actually be purchased in our minds before the fact.  We see or hear an ad, talk to a friend or casually walk by something that catches our attention.  Soon, what is a microsecond of a look becomes something on which we focus…then the mental fun begins. Focus becomes obsession, obsession becomes a vision of what life would be like IF we mad that purchase, and vision creates action.  That’s why Jesus said that the “lamp to the soul” is the eyes:

“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is bad, your body is filled with darkness.”  Luke 11:34

Jesus knew what we all choose to ignore or deny – that our focus, our obsessions, all the “ideas that sound good in the mind” can lead us down paths of destruction.  Now, destruction might be a strong word but follow me – our choices begin with mental flirtation and can lead us anywhere.  Yes, they all are not necessarily negative…but they can lead us in all sorts of directions that are far, far away from the Lord’s will in our lives.  It’s either “light or darkness” according to Jesus.  Most of us know what darkness we flirt with in our minds.  Most of the people I’ve known, including myself, who “fell” into one action or another that harms the heart of our God because of something that began in the mind.  Maybe it was a rationalization of some behavior or some obsession that turned into an action that hurt another person…maybe it was something initially irrational that was taken over by emotion and turned ugly.  Whatever the case, our minds are fruitful places…places of potential good and bad.

Paul says that our minds can be renewed!  In fact, the bible says we should guard our minds.  Don’t let your mind be “squeezed” into submission to choices and aspects of focus that might sound good in your head but will only net hurt and pain.  Seek the Lord for a renewal of your mind.  When something comes across your head, ask yourself, “is this something light or dark?”  Is this thought going to illumine my heart and life with a taste of heaven or will it lead to pain or hurt?  You see how this works!  May the Lord renew our minds this day!