Archive for the 'Change!?!' Category

Missional, Books / Readings, Change!?!

Viral Christianity?

Today, Ryan Braught (church planter in Lancaster, PA) posted a review of the book, Viral Jesus: Recovering the Contagious Power of the Gospel. Ryan writes, “The premise of this book is to recover the viral movement nature of the church. Rohde puts it this way, “In the early centuries Christianity was an explosive, viral movement that spread by word of mouth.” He then continues, “But today, the gospel is no longer spreading like wildfire throughout the western world. Slowly, Christianity has morphed into something much different…a stable institutionalized religion that no longer grips us with the excitement and spirituality of the early years.”

Ryan continues: “Rhode lays out 5 key aspects of a viral Jesus movement.
1. Apostolic teams found organic churches and networks that follow Jesus in every gathering. Yet every component, from individual Christians to networks, is easily reproducible and simple in design; simple but not simplistic.
2. Viral Jesus movements are focused on the kingdom, not on the church per se. This is because they are focused on the King and his commands.
3. Viral Jesus movements are founded with the fivefold ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11.
4. Viral movements, by their nature, are supernaturally powerful because they are under the authority and power of Jesus.
5. Finally, viral Jesus movements are led by Jesus alone. He is the one who provides stability and control.

From what Ryan writes, it sounds like this book is written under some of the same premises as The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church by Alan Hirsch and Leonard Sweet. In this book, Hirsch writes that when we recover our spiritual DNA and focus on Jesus, the gospel spreads quickly.

Is it possible for Christianity to spread like a virus in the U.S. today? What might this look like in your community? Have you seen or experienced anything like this?

One of the key quotes for Ryan in the book is, “I believe that Jesus gives ministry success to a person or team because they are obedient, not because they have great technique.”.

If you would like to read more of Ryan’s review of Viral Jesus, click here.

Jeff

Understanding Context, Community, Change!?!

Guest Post — Ramblings of a Pastor

One of my pleasures, which I wish I had more time for, is reading the writings of pastors in their church newsletter. Sometimes, each pastor comes-up with a real gem that I think needs a larger audience than just their local church. The following comes from Pastor Don Shankster, of the Papago Buttes Church of the Brethren, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Don is a bit closer to retirement than most of us. Yet, his life experiences can teach many of us things that we may not have had time to learn on our own. The following is one good lesson on dealing with “CHANGE”. Jeff

Ramblings of a Pastor

I have become a bit of a snob with my taste buds. After more than eight years of enjoying whole wheat breads, I am on alert in many restaurants that do not offer whole wheat (which is deemed healthier for you). I enjoy buckwheat pancakes on a regular basis, especially loaded with blueberries. Even Denny’s restaurants have upgraded to offering whole wheat pancakes with the extra “texture” that whole grains provide.

Recently I stopped at “The Place” in Flagstaff for breakfast. When I questioned the server on the availability of whole wheat in their menu she said, “Oh no, we don’t have anything ‘healthy’ on our menu here.” Denny’s has made the change, but The Place has not.

I do not like change. But my eating habits have changed as I learn what is better for me and as I begin to appreciate the healthier choices. My body is changing, not able to perform like it did ten years ago let alone twenty or thirty. I can throw all the tantrums I want to about going paperless in my banking, but the world is well on its way in that direction with or without me.

We serve a God we claim to be changeless, but one who looks for change in our hearts and actions. When God created the human body, it was made to go through changes. The earth is constantly changing with wind and water and pressure. Some natural landmarks like arches eventually fall down and change the landscape through freezing and thawing and erosion.

Faith that keeps us looking to God is also in flux. Our faith may be strengthening or weakening depending on our attention to it or the particular situation we find ourselves in. For our church to be relevant in this world, it, too, must change. Culture, media, social connections are all changing rapidly around us. A generation that has grown up with iPods and Facebook does not understand the vocabulary of the typewriter age. This new generation is more comfortable in public places with many options than in “sanctuaries” with limited offerings.

For a church these changes can be daunting. But underneath the façade of different music styles, seating arrangements, or media use are people still needing to belong, still looking for someone to care, still seeking to be loved. Our human form may change on the outside, but our needs remain constant on the inside. As God told Samuel when he went to anoint a new king, “Do not judge by his appearance or height (surface characteristics) … The Lord does not see as mortals see. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7) And, remember, the apostle Paul went to marketplaces to share the Good News.

Yes, I need to change to stay connected in this world. In the midst of this change the core interest to God does not change. Trying to be more diligent in searching the hearts of those around me, while working with the changes around me, Pastor Don

Spiritual Formation, Community, Change!?!

A Belonging to Believing Story

I love stories of people coming to faith in Christ and entering the community of a church! This week, the Modesto Church of the Brethren published this story in their newsletter, The Chimes. With permission, I share it here.

“During a recent Sunday service we welcomed two new members into the Modesto congregation! Chelsea Fenney, by letter of transfer and Dana Roy, by baptism. As usual, we invited our newest members, if they wished, to share thoughts on why they chose to join the church or what they appreciate about this church.

Here are some thoughts from Dana Roy:

I had never attended one church regularly, much less “belonged” to any faith community. After attending a memorial service for a dear friend’s parents at Modesto Church of the Brethren, my family and I decided to attend a Sunday worship service. This led to another Sunday worship, a Christmas musical, meeting church members, more Sunday services, cooking for 9th and D, National Junior High Conference, building relationships…. Before long I was waking up every Sunday wanting to go to church. It wasn’t just the activities; it appeared I had found a place that spoke my spiritual language. So many times I felt like Erin and Russ’ sermons spoke straight to my heart, allowing me to truly feel the Holy Spirit. Beyond this, I had found a faith community that was filled with so many welcoming and genuine people. My journey to Modesto Church of the Brethren has been more meaningful than I can possibly explain in one or two paragraphs. I am grateful beyond words for being a part of the MODCOB family.”

I love stories like this which illustrate a postmodern concept that belonging to a group leads to believing. Getting people involved in your church, a small group, a potluck, or even attending a memorial service can be the first step of evangelism. How many of you think that someone coming to a memorial service at your church might eventually come to faith because of this event? Yes, it is possible! Dana illustrates how the moving of the Spirit created a hunger in her life to want more of the good things of God. So, I encourage you to pray for those visitors that come to your activities and events. Maybe someone like Dana is attending, someone in who’s life the Spirit is moving.

Blessings to you,
Jeff

Spiritual Formation, Change!?!

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!

That’s Happy New Year, in Hawaiian. As 2011 rapidly winds down, I do pray that each of you can look back and see numerous times where God’s hand has guided you. I’m about to preach tomorrow another sermon about Mary and Joseph, focusing on the time just before they flee to Egypt. They had their plans to marry, live near family in Nazareth, and lead a “normal” life. But their plans were turned upside down by an angel announcing the birth of Jesus, a forced trip to Bethlehem to register, and another forced trip to Egypt to save Jesus’ life.

Our plans may never be messed-up that much, but still it can be frustrating to see our plans or dreams get blocked. My prayer for the New Year is to have eyes to see God’s hand in everything that happens in 2012. That’s a simple request that will require a lot of faith to see it happen.

What’s your prayer or desire for the New Year?

Blessings to you,
Jeff

P.S. I heard a sermon this past Sunday that used 1 Kings 3:5-14 as its scripture. I thought this is a very appropriate one for my thoughts above.

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

7 “Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”

Missional, Third Places, Ministry Formation, Change!?!

Thesis on Evangelism

I recently took my last Doctor of Ministry (D. Min.) class on thesis writing. The past three years have been challenging, but most stimulating and inspirational! The program has been through Gallup University (Omaha, at Gallup Headquarters) and Bethel University. I’ve shared class with 7 other outstanding individuals, including one from South Africa.

My thesis research topic is, “How Clifton StrengthsFinder can empower Christians who feel inadequate in faith sharing with non-believers?”. Part of my research will be to interview Christians who have been instrumental in bringing others to Christ. I would like to do this from an emergent perspective.

I chose this topic from all my experience as a pastor and Congregational Life Team member. During all these years, it was hard for a congregation to engage in evangelism. Many feel inadequate for personal faith sharing. For some, evangelism is a dirty word. But, God calls us all to share our faith, or give a reason for why we believe. It’s not enough to just do good works of service. But rather than learning a new program or things to memorize, what if Christians could experience empowerment by simply understanding better how God has created them? From the understanding that Clifton StrengthsFinder gives us, what if we could learn to share our faith out of this natural, God-given, and unique gifting?

If any of you are familiar with Clifton StrengthsFinder or interested in this research topic, please get in touch with me. I’d love to engage with you.

Blessings to you,
Jeff

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