Some sweet and important words…

How 3 Words can Stop What’s Stealing Your Joy: Instead of Staying Stuck In Comparing & Competing by Ann Voscamp.

Here’s the link – I would encourage you to read it!

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What if we sold all our church buildings? What would happen?

7cfa7-livefaith_2Yesterday, I gave a message at our Outdoor Worship experience in McCall on the IDENTITY of a disciple. I posed what could be a threatening question but is a question that, nonetheless, is one that clarifies and recalibrates our understanding of WHO we are in Jesus as His Body. I started out with this story:

A few years back, some leaders in our faith community were exchanging ideas through email on some creative strategies on how to keep our spiritual focus on the mission of God. In the exchange, one of our leaders simply stated, “why don’t we CELL the church?” Unfortunately, when his autocorrect program on the email program he was utilizing “saw” the word “cell,” it “corrected” it to read SELL. So, the question was accidentally posted, “why don’t we SELL the church?” Well, I must say, I was surprised and (truthfully) excited for a bit that one of our leaders would be so bold. What is interesting though is that question DOES “clear the deck” on some preconceived ideas and long-held misunderstandings of what it means to be the Body of Christ in our time being faithful in our sphere to the call and mission of Jesus.

Imagine with me, what if we did sell? What would we do? What is the nature of the Church?

You see, answering that question will give you a clear opportunity to see what it means to own our identity as disciples of Jesus. Because the BOTTOM LINE is this – the church, the Body of Christ is an organism, alive and well, of people living the life of Jesus…being disciples and making disciples.

Faithfulness, Living in Grace and by the Holy Spirit, obedience, being the Body of Christ – those are the non- negotiables of “church” – of our faith gatherings. Buildings are icing on the cake. They are nice to have but not a non-negotiable – the early church lived happily and powerfully without them.

Here’s what would happen – when Jesus followers, filled with the Holy Spirit, moved by that which moved those early followers of Jesus 2000 years ago, we would:

LIVE – We would live our lives as followers of Jesus – we would be incarnational, embedded, indigenous – we wouldn’t be following personalities, historical movements, or pursuing membership in a religious We would be quickly discerning what it means to be a Christian in our time and place…as Followers of Jesus, that would be our passionate pursuit.

CONNECT – We would find ways to connect with others who follow the same    In  Ephesians  4, Paul says, we are of “one faith, one Spirit, one Father, one baptism”…in other words, ONE. It is in our spiritual DNA to seek out others who follow the same Lord.

INTEGRATE – We would seek out the other gifts of the Spirit because there is something that we are missing when we don’t have all the gifts, the other parts of the Body of Christ alive and well in our midst. We know that – if I’m a hand, I know I need more to be complete – YES, I am complete in Christ but I am also a part of HIS We need equipping  and releasing  in understanding  who  we  are  in Jesus  and how God has “wired us up” to take our place, that  significant place, within the  economy of God and His  “strategy” for mission in and through us.

INTENTIONAL – We would rely on ourselves for spiritual. There was a study done by a HUGE megachurch a few years back that showed that all that the church “does” for people does not create followers of Jesus but followers and “addicts” of church programs.  Jesus calls EACH OF US  to follow him – to be dependent upon him – we cannot create addictive organizations that feed off of making disciples into co-dependents. We must rather train, equip and release people to know experience and plumb the depths of God’s grace and love through their own growing relationship with Jesus. We must grow “self-feeders,” if you will…people who take responsibility for their own growth in Christ. Fellowship and being faithful in the context of community is important…creating spiritual co-dependents is not.

WORSHIP – GROW – SERVE – WE would find ways to worship, grow, serve – in other words, we would do something together to honor God in all we are and ..that’s in our spiritual DNA as well.

DISCIPLE – We would disciple others naturally – we would go and be amongst, people we knew, neighborhoods and meetings places in town we already inhabit and we would share our lives and gifts. We wouldn’t have to depend on “someone else” to do what Jesus is calling US to do.

DEPENDENT UPON JESUS – We would be ultimately more dependent upon the Holy Spirit and NOT co-dependent upon the church.  The transfiguration story is an important paradigm in this regard – we got it wrong – Jesus NEVER INTENDED for us to set up “booths”…Jesus never intended for us to memorialize and attempt to repeat spiritual experiences. The rear view mirror in our cars is the size they are so that we can KNOW where we’ve been but also so that we can see where we are and where we are going. We are not to idolize our past otherwise our God becomes our past. Jesus is moving NOW…how is that true in our lives? When we know that, we know that Jesus is calling us again to a renewed sense of dependence upon him.

BUILD – You see, what would happen, and I say this in love, eventually, we would build another building and eventually get to the point where another pastor or leader or teacher or prophet would have to ask the same question we began ..

WE WOULD BE THE CHURCH INSTEAD OF GO TO CHURCH

This is a wake up call type of a question meant to snap us back to reality – just like the churches of Revelation who are called to return to their first love, resist compromising our Kingdom calling as well as to be and to be “HOT” for things of God, so we too must always embrace the fact that WE are the Body of Christ released into our world to make a difference in people’s lives to God’s glory! Are you GOING to church…or are you part of THE church, the one that is moving and active…the one that is the manifestation of the presence of Jesus in our lives?

Living as a Disciple during a HOLIDAY week! BLESS others, pure and simple!

1Being Defined by Being and Doing in Jesus!
This is a fun week ahead…there are people galore to run into…celebrations to be had…meals to be shared in addition to the TONS of “guests” that will flood your life – people you will see and meet at campgrounds, neighborhoods, stores, etc.   Here’s something powerful to consider this week – all that we do and say that alerts others to the reign of God in our lives.  YES, you read that correctly, you are a walking and living “Billboard” of the presence of Jesus in this world.  Who you are in Jesus and how you live, as one missiologist David Bosch wrote, “Mission is more and different from recruitment to our brand of religion; it is the alerting of people to the universal reign of God.”  You joining Jesus on HIS mission is both the announcement and the demonstration of the reign of God through Christ.
In this instance, we are not trying to say that every Jesus follower is gifted with evangelism gifts…because that is far from the truth.  EVEN SO, every Jesus follower CAN foster habits in our lives that draw us out into the lives of unbelievers and invite the kinds of questions that lead to sharing our lives in faith. If our only habits are going to church and attending meetings, it’s not going to connect us with unbelievers nor invite their curiosity about our faith.  The big idea is to develop habits that unite us together as Christ followers, while also propelling us into the lives of others. We also need habitual practices that don’t just deplete our energy and burn us out, but which re-energize us, replenishing our reserves and connecting us more deeply to Jesus. I have seen the following habits do just that. The five habits of highly missional (mission driven…those joining Jesus on HIS mission) people are:
 
BLESS
I will bless three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member
of our church.
EAT
I will eat with three people this week, at least one of whom is not a
member of our church.
LISTEN
I will spend at least one period of the week listening for the Spirit’s voice.
LEARN
I will spend at least one period of the week learning Christ.
SENT
I will journal throughout the week all the ways I alerted others to the
universal reign of God through Christ.
 
Permit me to share a couple of more truths – each of these habits is designed to release a certain value in the life of the person who practices them. If you bless three people every week, you’re going to become a very generous person. If you eat with others, you’ll develop a greater capacity for hospitality. If you foster the habit of listening to the Holy Spirit, you’ll become an increasingly Spirit-led person. If you’re learning Christ, it’s fair to assume you’ll become more and more Christlike. And if you’re journaling the myriad ways you’ve been sent into your world, you’ll increasingly see yourself as a sent one, or a missionary in your own neighborhood. In other words, each habit shapes us around a particular missional (mission driven) value:
Bless
Generosity
Eat
Hospitality
Listen
Spirit-led
Learn
Christlike
Sent
Missionary
 
The point is this: If you want to be a generous, hospitable, Spirit-led, Christlike missionary, don’t just try to learn those values. Foster these habits! The way you “foster” them is to practice them.  Indeed, I know for certain that most churches have a mission or vision statement that says they are committed to something similar to this. I also suspect most members of churches read these and agree with them in theory but have very little idea of what exactly it means for them to live these out under the noses of those who have not yet been set free in Christ.   So, instead of being overwhelmed this holiday week, try JUST ONE of these habits and see how Jesus meets you!  
 
I will bless three people this week-at least one of whom is not a part of my church.
 
Here’s your holiday challenge – bless AT LEAST three people this week. Jesus followers use the word “bless” in a variety of ways. In most respects, it means to confer prosperity or happiness upon another. Even blessing someone who has just sneezed is an expression of goodwill and a desire for continued health.  Someone that I know told me that part of the etymology of the term “blessing” is “to add strength to another’s arm.” Therefore, to bless someone is to build them up, to fill them with the encouragement for them to increase in strength and prosperity.
 
This week, try giving people around you, not just people you know, words of Affirmation.  It may be the simplest way to bless someone. Send them a note, write them an email, text them. Send them some words of affirmation and encouragement.  Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” I’ve heard it said that a word of encouragement is like oxygen to the soul. A word of affirmation helps our souls to breathe more easily.
 
In addition, try some acts of Kindness.  Nothing gets people’s attention as much as kindness does.  Most people in our culture do not practice kindness because kindness demands that we act contrary to our own self-interest…we actually are concerned MORE for the other than ourselves.  Acts of kindness literally speak “love” into people’s lives. They lighten the recipient’s load. Look for ways to perform an act of kindness in someone’s life.  You will be surprised how FEW people are kind – let someone in front of you in a check out line…help someone who may need some help with their family at the park…let that waiter or waitress who is working hard for you at your restaurant table know that they are appreciated.  Exercise your soul and bless people this week. I say to do it at least three times…better yet, get “addicted” to blessing others this week.  Be a BLESSING MACHINE and see how those acts not only bless your soul, but will also provide practical assistance to another and hopefully give them a glimpse into another “Kingdom”…let people see the reign of Jesus in your life!  
When we live unexpected lives (which clearly includes the blessing others), we find ourselves being noticed by others. Put it this way, that may be the ONLY Jesus that they may see all week!  I pray that these people that YOU bless see Jesus in you!