Monthly Archives: April 2009
Often times I will sit down and read a new book. More often than not the book is about church leadership. What does it take to be a leader in a church? And not just be a leader in a church, but be an effective leader in a church? “Good to Great” is considered in many circles, whether social work or business world, to be one of the greatest books on leadership. Sometimes the books deal with culture and what the church should be doing within it. Books like, “They Like Jesus But Not The Church,” by Dan Kimball or, “No Perfect People Allowed,” by John Burke. These are some of my favorites.
But there is something simple out there. A simple approach to church work. And simple is exactly what the culture is looking for. In “Simple Church,” the authors in the first chapter share different companies within the culture that are diving into the “simple” revolution. Companies like Apple, Papa John’s & Google. Each of these understand the concept of simple in our complex world. At the touch of a button we can communicate with the other side of the world. Our world is so small yet so complex. And in the midst of a complex life, and sometimes a crazy life, there is a simple revolution. A revolution that is taking its cue from the culture around it. It is a revolution that has set my heart ablaze again for the work of God’s Kingdom.
The purpose of the book is to return to God’s simple plan for making transformed and mature, disciples of Christ. Not making Christians. Not making more church-goers. Not making more rule-followers. Not making pew sitters. But walking with people through a simple process that is designed to help them transform into all that Christ hopes they will become. And through this transformation, people will join together with Christ and other people, to build the Kingdom of God. For those of you in a ministry of any kind, I truly believe that you will find this an extremely refreshing read.
I want to encourage everyone who is in church leadership in any manner, to either read the book “Simple Church,” or to encourage your church leaders to read it for themselves.
What are some “simple” things you have noticed within our world? Where are the simple things in the midst of our complex world?
It is so interesting to read through the book of Acts. Early on in the church’s history we see a phenomenon develop that will supersede even the culture around the church. Scripture teaches that the early church had “all things in common,” Acts 2:44.
Recently I have taken up my running again. I have run a few miles at a time. I have also added some swimming to my mix of workouts. My ultimate goal is to work my way up to a triathlon. I think I can do it. A couple weeks ago there was a triathlon in my town. A friend of mine who runs in them told me she would be coming by our place about 2 pm. So our family went outside to watch the racers run by our house. I was completely amazed at what I saw. I didn’t see an over abundance of Lance Armstrong’s or Simon Whitfield’s. There were no world renown athletes at this particular event. However, there was something that I noticed, something that I think the church would be wise to learn from. The runners in this race had “all things in common.”
The competitor’s had just finished a small up hill burst as they turned the corner in front of our house. Two male runners came around the corner. One of the runners was about 15 feet behind. Coming up the hill, the runner who was leading was not a particularly strong, hill runner. He began gasping for breath. The runner who was behind began to close the gap between himself and this other runner. Right in front of my house the runner who was behind on the hill came up strong and began to pass the runner who had been leading him up the hill. As the second runner passed, I saw him do something that admittedly, I would probably never do. He patted his competition on the back and encouraged him to stick with it. I watched those two men run the rest of the way down our street. I was completely amazed by this act of sportsmanship.
I want to see a church in action like that. I want to see it! I want to witness it! I want to feel, sense, taste and smell it! I want to, experience it! When I falter, I don’t want a church full of people who pass me by and throw it in my face. I want a church full of people that are right there to pat me on the back and encourage me to keep going. Why? Because we, of all people, should have all things in common.
The common element we share is in the man, Jesus Christ. The God man who began a revolutionary relationship between God’s creation and God Himself.
Do you feel your church shares “all things in common?” In what ways would you like to see your church begin to act out the “all things in common” passage of Acts? What thoughts would you like to add?
Awe and wonder. It seems our culture, specifically our nation, thrives on being amazed. We look for the awesome, the exceptional and the uniquely talented in every field. We hang our mouths low when a manly, some would even say ugly, lady sings so beautifully it impresses even the toughest of critics. We cheer loudly when someone swims faster, jumps higher, or supersedes our expectations. And we find ourselves in awe, in wonder.
This fascination is nothing new, but seems to have accelerated in the new world in which we live. We now live in a world that has so combined the material and the digital that the line is often fuzzy. This connection to almost every corner of the world at our fingertips has only heightened our thirst for awe and wonder. Now we can watch short films by amateur Indian movie makers and watch start up bands from Russia with the click of the mouse or the tap of a fingertip. We can view live cameras of the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Great Pyramids all at the same time. We can download millions of songs, legally and illegally, and experience such an eclectic array of music it makes our heads spin. And we find ourselves constantly searching for the latest, greatest experience. To fill us with awe and wonder.
And we do this with our children. We show them how some GREAT guy can jump high enough to put a ball in a hole. Or we show them this AMAZING dude who can carry a piece of pig hide 100 yards. And we teach them to love it as much as we do. And then, we look for something EVEN better. So pro-athletes pump up and juice up to invoke even more awe and wonder. But there is a limit. A person can only run so many yards in a season, or hit so many home runs, or write so many amazing songs, or paint/design so many pictures. And so we look to someone or something else to fulfill our eternal thirst for awe and wonder.
As we raise children in a culture striving after awe and wonder, and as we carry the message and mission of Jesus to that same culture, make sure your fill and their fill of awe and wonder is found in God. Turn your TV off, turn the radio off, shut down the laptop, mp3 player and iPhone, and look around and see what God has done. See creation in all its splendor and majesty. See lives changed, relationships mended, hurts healed, addictions broken, and hearts filled. See the power of Christ accomplishing the purpose of Christ in the place where you are. And while you are standing in awe and wonder of what God is doing, be sure to tell your kids and neighbors about it.
At Beyond Relevance, there is a great blog entitled, “What if Starbucks Marketed Like the Church?” It’s a funny parody about how many people in the culture perceive the church. I wanted to share the video with you here, but want you to know that the people over at Beyond Relevance are truly genius when it comes to the church and marketing it in the culture. Please, visit their blog as well. After you watch the video, let me know what you think. See how many interesting things you can find in the video that churches often use. For instance, fonts, posters, guest ministry tactics. Let me know how accurate you think the video is to many churches today. I’m looking forward to seeing the discussion build on this.
Step inside my office and take a look around. On one wall is my college degree. It says I spent thousands of dollars to go to college for four years and to be certified as “ready for the world” by my college professors. Right beneath is is my certificate of ordination. It says that I have chosen to give my life to the ministry and the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Right beneath that is my Class Orator plaque. It says that my college professors looked at me and thought that I had a certain amount of speaking ability, maybe that would even help me stand out from the rest of my class. I think they may have had a few too many lemonades when they voted.
Look on another wall. It’s full of books, encyclopedias, word study textbooks and commentaries. In my bookcases are books on the history of the church. Books that share information on Greek and Hebrew words. Then there are some that are great study books for different words, people and places found in Scripture. I even have an entire section of books on the church. These books show me theologically (related to the study of God) and ecclesiologically (the belief and studies of the nature and functions of the church) what the church should look like. Then taped to my walls are different pictures of ideas that I have for the church. What could the church look like? I list out on my walls different goals and ideas for my work in the church.
I look at all of this and I assume something. In this case, assuming does something much worse than you’re used to. I assume that because of my books, my goals and my beliefs, that somehow and at some level, I am responsible for the church. I place on myself the weight that says, “It is my job to make sure that this church is healthy, growing and vibrant.” Somehow, if the Spirit is not involved in our church, I take that as a failure on my part. It must have been something I did. I must have not read my Bible enough this week. I must have not prayed hard enough this week. I must have made someone else mad this week. For some reason, I assume that somehow the church is all my responsibility.
My question; is that the truth? Did God really leave the responsibility of the health and growth of the church in the hands of humans? Is everything I have studied really just preparation to see if I can shoulder the weight of the church on my own, with God along the side waiting to see how well I do?
1 Corinthians 3:5-7 says this, “So, what is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
Churches and church leaders, what is your responsibility in the church according to this Scripture? What is our job? And why do we (I) continually have the arrogant attitude of assuming that the success or failure of God’s Kingdom is somehow reliant upon us (me) and our (my) performance? And how does this relate back to the culture around us? And how does this change the way we “do” church?
The perseverance and success of God’s Kingdom depends nothing on my degree or my accomplishments, but on the already accomplished work of Jesus Christ.
A few years back a young family was visiting our church on a Sunday morning. I was pleasantly surprised to see who it was. I was very excited that they had stopped by to check out the church. After the service I made my way to them with the intention of making contact with them and letting them know how excited I was to see them. This person had very good connections within the school system and I could see some amazing things happening through this family. As I talked with them more, the husband said to me, “Yeah, we’re just church shopping.” I think I saw them maybe once more after that. Our church just didn’t have the right product for them.
Consider our consumer mindset coupled with our entitlement mindset. We are a culture that wants everything, as soon as it comes out all while we think that we are entitled to it. Unfortunately, this consumer mentality comes with the “consumer” into the church. When I drive a main road through Springfield, I can see many choices for where my money can be well spent. All these businesses pay big bucks to advertise and tell me something I need, even though for nearly 30 years I have survived without it. Now all of a sudden, for $300 (or whatever) my life will be completely different if I buy their product. Then another company tells me I can get the same thing for $290 at their company, all feeding the consumer mentality. If I can’t find what I need at Dick’s Sports, I can visit the Sports Authority. Not there either? I can hit Target. They have everything.
My point is, many people aren’t searching for a church home to find a place where they can best be plugged in and help serve. They aren’t even necessarily looking for a church home that teaches Scripture. They are looking for a place that will serve them and provides for all of their needs. If they can find that place, well then they can just sit back comfortably in the pew and have their feet washed without the fear of ever having to carry a cross. This brings up the question in my mind; what is the #1 thing you look for in a church home?
Is it tangible or intangible? Can you smell, touch or feel it? Are you shopping for a church with people just like you so that you can fit in comfortably? Is it the church with the most ministry opportunities so you can be served more? Is it a church with a vibrant children’s ministry, powerful worship music, emotional speaking and teaching? What are you shopping for in a church? And better yet, what will you do when the church takes that product away and replaces it with another? So, what are you shopping for? What’s the #1 thing that will establish you in a church home?
Looking forward to reading your thoughts and comments on this one.
I sat down in a coffeehouse this morning. A beautiful setting with delicious smells in the air and comfortable seating. I wasn’t pressured to sign up for a coffee class by the Barista. There were no people in my face asking me questions about dark roast coffee that I didn’t know the answer to. I was able to take my 6 year old in, grab a latte, a chocolate chip muffin and sit on a comfortable chair and have a great conversation with him. He told me how he was going to create a planet and launch it into space with a giant launchpad. His planet would be lined with colorful flowers so that aliens would have a sweet smelling place to land and live. What a beautiful opportunity to connect with my son and get to know him more.
It seems that the people in our world are interested in sitting comfortably and watching to see if they are interested in joining. What if the church allowed people to do just that? What would it look like if the church provided an environment where people could comfortably interact and explore questions about faith? Not in an atmosphere where they felt pressured to react emotionally to some call, but to openly explore their questions, without the fear of judgment or favoritism. Scripture teaches in Ps. 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” How could the church impact the culture right where they are if the atmosphere was provided for them to literally “taste and see” that the Lord is indeed good?
It may be time for the church to take a lesson in atmosphere and environment from the coffeehouse.
Can it really be that America has really changed that much? Our President has recently stated that we are not a Christian nation. That we are just a nation that has our foundation in a set of values. Now, I could easily argue that this “set of values” is rooted in Judeo-Christian beliefs. I could also argue that many of our founders, although technically Deists, very much had a faith in God and founded our nation around the principles and laws found in the Ten Commandments. That is an argument for another blog by someone else.
Here is the question that I want to ask Christ followers and the church in America; how will we respond? If any response at all, what is it that the church should do? The culture around us is changing so rapidly and is quickly moving away from a Christian worldview. The church should not respond vocally in my opinion. Starting a protest or some rally will only continue to stir up the sentiment that we are somehow hateful people, always looking for a fight, wanting to show what we are against. In my humble opinion, this is a great opportunity for the church to shine. We are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. I read that somewhere.
This is an unbelievable opportunity for the church to respond with grace and class. An opportunity for us to go into our world and be the hands and feet of Jesus. To show the rest of our nation and the world that there is a God and He is very much alive. And that we are ready to serve Him no matter what comes our way. I believe that the church has a chance to shine right now, bright as ever, as long as we use the opportunity correctly. We need to make the most of this opportunity.
I guess the most logical place to start a blog is by introducing myself and what I intend to do with this blog space. My name is Stan Rodda and I am a follower of the teachings of Christ. I firmly believe that the church (when done properly and scripturally) can be and is designed to be the very avenue by which God interacts with His creation. Traditional definition of church will lead many to disagree with that statement, thinking that God doesn’t just interact with His creation in a building on Sunday morning. I agree with this assessment. I do not believe in the traditional definition of church. I believe that the church is made up of people from all walks of life, nationalities, genders & race. This group of people that God calls the church can be used by God to interact with the world and to share the grace of God with humanity.
In my humble opinion, the church (people who claim to follow Christ) have done a poor job being the church in our world. Often times we have misrepresented Christ in terrible ways (AKA- the Crusades). The church must wake up and realize what is going on in the culture around them. When we awaken to the reality of what is really going on in God’s world, I believe we will be better equipped to make a positive impact on it. I intend to use this blog as an opportunity for Christ followers from many backgrounds to come and share their experiences with the culture. For churches around the world to share ideas and encouragement. And even a place for people who wouldn’t classify themselves as followers of Christ, to come and share their stories as well.
The Apostle Paul is a great example for this. He taught us to be aware of the world and people around us, and to use those opportunities to share Christ with our culture. He said in 1 Corinthians 9:20, 22- “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews…To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak, I have become all things to all men so that I may by all mean save one.” If the church doesn’t have an awakening to the culture around them, we will continue to suffer in our mediocrity and ineffectiveness. It’s time for the church to experience a Cultural Awakening.