Enjoying the transition from Christmas and New Years back to the "grind" of bleak, midwinter life. I have a lot of thoughts on my mind but not a lot of time to refine them at this point. But here they are, for what they are worth.
• The reason the church exists is to glorify God by "being" disciples of Jesus Christ and by making disciples of Jesus Christ. The reason the church in North America is in bad shape is because we don't understand our purpose: our churches are full of Christians who are not disciples of Jesus and therefore we've apparently few ideas about how to make disciples. Now disciple making might involve things and programs like Rick Warren's 5 Purposes, but I'd say that those are more to help us understand "how" to make disciples rather than why we exist.
• It seems like so much of what people are concerned about these days has to do with "playing church." Now I'm all for creative play, but we also need to incorporate a certain amount of results orientation into our methodology. Are we "making" disciples. How do we cure the feeling that we are just “playing church?”
• We need to move from "confirmation" to" Christ-formation" across the board. The old ways aren't working any more and the model of church we are pursuing (programming/modern) will be radically different in 20 years. This radical change is necessary. The status quo is no longer acceptable. It is a matter of spiritual life and death.
An observation for those who seek to address the situation:
When you bring the Word the kingdom of God will become more real to more people. You can count on two things:
a. The hungry sheep will line up to be fed and they will come from everywhere.
b. The devil and his allies in the world don’t like this and they will throw everything they have at you.
• True discipleship reflects the cruciform pattern (as does all Truth). All true discipleship reflects the experience of Jesus. If you haven’t been persecuted you must ask yourself the question, “Is what I’m doing really discipleship or am I just making peace with the world?” "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice..." Jesus’ invitation to us to “Follow me: live like me, die like me, lay down your lives like me.” Bonhoeffer once said, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."
• As you try to do kingdom work, those who run “the system” will try to crucify you.
Another Observation: Discipleship demands submission. The most pressing question for us in the church today is the one Jesus’ asks: “You call me teacher and Lord, yet why do you not do what I say?”
We’ve made church about us to the point that we don’t submit to the Holy Spirit. It's also difficult to submit to each other. Many in our midst are not spiritually mature in their faith. “No student is above his master.” Mt 10:24 ff. The reality is that in every existing congregation the need exists not just to evangelize the lost (Mt 28:19ff) but also to re-evangelize the already converted who have become "comfortable" or sleepy in their faith (Jesus' words to Peter, " ..;then turn and convert your brethren. "
“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” When you preach the kingdom you will always gather a crowd, but that crowd is both good fish and bad fish.”
The nature of the church is that we are both wheat and weeds, good and bad fish, good seed and bad seed. As has oft been said, “Wherever the Lord builds a Cathedral, the devils builds a chapel.”
Winton Marsalis, Jazz University Program on XM/Sirius Radio - “A way to break someone’s spirit is to tell them that what they are doing is not worth it -- it’s worthless - and is of no value. So we seek to do the opposite. We seek to build up people.”
Vision for for the church (to amend what we have been and to enhance what we are)
The church needs to be...
1. A culture of praise to God. God is real. God acts in real ways in people's lives. Let's celebrate that more intentionally.
2. A culture of thanks to God and people. A culture of appreciation.
3. A culture of joy.
4. a culture of fun.
5. A culture of optimism (can do!)
6. A culture of welcome! Let’s get to know you!
7. A culture of generosity.
8. A culture of believing. Expectation of miracles. A culture where faith can flourish.
9. A culture of learning (perpetual).
10. A culture that values creativity and innovation without MacGyverising.
11. A culture of safety where discussion, repentance, forgiveness and change can occur. A culture that allows for mistakes and learns from them.
12. A culture of desperate love for the lost. A desperation for people to know and love Jesus. A culture that so loves others that it is willing to change and get out of our preferential comfort zone in order to create an environment where people can meet Jesus and be changed.
13. A culture of direct communication. No junior high games.
14. An environment where kids want to be here and it’s the best hour of the week for their parents.
15. A culture of grace. Quick to forgive, quick to put the best intentions on the acts and motives of others.
16. A culture without guilt or shame.
17. A culture where we focus on leadership development/discipleship.
18. A culture of truth where the gospel is preached in all it's purity, leading to repentance and transforming faith in those who hear it. A place where the Word, as Dallas Willard puts it, is proclaimed, taught, and made manifest.