Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
My daily reading of the Bible has taken me to Zechariah the last few days. Actually I have scratched my reading plan for this year. I did not like it. So now for the the next time period. I am reading some of the books of the Bible that I am least familiar with. Zechariah being one of them. Zech is one of the longer minor prophets. And as you know is next to the last book in the Old Testament. Zech is a hard read for me. I am trying to spend some time understanding. Maybe just maybe I will post on my understanding in the next few days.
Now I want to focus on one verse Zech3:9. And actually it is the last part of the verse. The LORD Almighty said:
This is in the context of a vision that Zechariah is shown of Joshua dressed in filthy clothes. This vision gives a prophetic discription of Jesus Christ. This verse aludes to what Jesus Christ will do.
. . . and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.
This is amazing to me. One Day! Not that one day sin will be no more, but rather that in one day sin will be removed from the world. I think of that and cannot fathom the greatness of our King to be able to remove sin in one day. To me sin is to prevelent. No way says my mind.
We have an all powerfull King! Who one day will remove all sin from this world in one day. May that day come quickly. Jesus, restore creation.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Here are some possible tracks. Hopefully this helps in understanding what I am trying to communicate.
- Leadership Training - intentionally organized to train people for volunteer leadership positions in overseeing open group or closed groups, corporate worship, committees (teams as we at FCC like to call them) and so forth. Larry Szyman talked about Deacons in last weekends message.
- Evangelism Training - intentionally organized to train open group leaders and participants in evangelism and to engage in ongoing evangelistic experiences.
- Ministry Equipping - intentionally organized for a short period of time for the purpose of training people for a specific ministry experience or assignment. Example: training adults to serve as counselors on a youth mission trip.
- Women's and Men's training - groups intentionally organized for men/women to discover how they are uniquely called and shaped by God. Training in how to apply our uniqueness to every aspect of their lives - personal, home, church, workplace, community and the world.
- Special Interest - groups intentionally organized on interest of people such as marriage enrichment, parenting skills or prayer.
- Special Needs - groups intentionally organized on the basis of specific affinity and personal needs such as divorce recovery, substance abuse recovery or health.
Closed Groups would lead Christ followers in pursuing Christ's reign in all of life. As well as train Christ followers to facilitate others in pursuit of Christ reign in their life.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Newly elected leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in an interview with CNN:
"I don't believe so. I believe that God creates us with different gifts. Each one of us comes into this world with a different collection of things that challenge us and things that give us joy and allow us to bless the world around us. Some people come into this world with affections ordered toward other people of the same gender and some people come into this world with affections directed at people of the other gender."
Homosexuality a "gift" from God. Romans 1:18-32 doesn't agree. I don't equate God's wrath with a gift from God.
God's Wrath Against Mankind
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts
were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32)
Monday, June 19, 2006
A closed group simply means the group is comprised of believers only. The focus is training. The context is discipling and the intent is to continue assimilation. A closed group is composed of believers that covenant together to meet over a short period of time for the purpose of becoming equipped to accomplish the objectives of the church.
Discipleship is a lifelong journey of obedience to Christ that transforms a person's values and behavior which results in ministry in the person's home, church and the world. It is the process of teaching new citizens in the kingdom of God to love, trust and obey God and how to win and train others to do the same.
The basic structure for closed groups will primarily include several short-term tracks (6 -13 weeks in length) and one time events for training the body of Christ. In my next post I will discuss and give more definition to the tracks.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
You ever done "cold turkey" evangelism. Some may no it as "door to door" or "street evangelism." Basically it is when you have a memorized presentation of the gospel that you take to some complete stranger with the hope of God using the presentation to "save" them.
I am a trained Navigator so my presentation was is the bridge illustration. I still have a bible that is marked in a way to lead me through it. Although I would be rusty, I believe I could still take you through it. Using the canned talk many times in our door to door evangelism campaign. I can share that I witnessed zero actual converts with this method. Now that is not to say that God did not use the illustration to bring that person closer to himself and eventually some of those people became Christ followers. I believer some became Christ followers later in life. Jesus the Radical Pastor has a post on his experience with "street" evangelism here.
Evangelism is always something that makes me nervous. But, I am less nervous when doing it "cold turkey." I don't know the person and may never see them again. Typically the "target" was an area of social need. I was going to spend a few minutes usually not over an hour talking with a total stranger. I was not there to listen to their story. I only wanted to present the gospel.
This "cold turkey" evangelism is not the evangelism I believe is needed for assimilation. We need to be willing to listen to the persons story first before even thinking about sharing the gospel. We need to know where they are and I am not talking spiritually. We already know they need Jesus. I need to become part of his/her community or culture. I need to enter his/her world. After understanding that then I can look to sharing the gospel. While entering his/her world, I don't become part or integrated in his/her world.
If you have not thought of it on your own at this point, let me tell you that many will accuse you of being a sinner. You may be entering places where sin is prevalent. You will be guilt by association. Some from your own local church body will make these accusations. It will happen. It has happened from the very day that Jesus proclaimed that "the kingdom of God is near." (Matthew 4:17) You know that Jesus was accused in this way. Peter also see Acts 11. Peter was accused of eating with uncircumcised men (Gentiles).
Are you willing to advance God's kingdom in all the earth for His glory? We must enter their world. We cannot expect them to come to us no matter how attractional we think we or our church is. The church must move out of the four walls of the building. All the earth includes those that are very close in distance from the building.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Christ is all! He is supreme! Upon the dawn of the last day, we will more fully understand and realize his supremacy.
God may the last day come quickly.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:2-4)
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Making disciples is were we begin. It is the first step. The open group is a foundational strategy that serves as an entry point for yet-to-be Christians. An open group is primarily an evangelistic Bible study group or event comprised of an intentional mix of both believers and unbelievers. The focus is evangelism.
An evangelistic Bible study group is a group intentionally formed around the study of God's Word. This is deferent from a group that gathers for support, fellowship, leadership training or skill development. Groups that are designed primarily for reaching lost people are open groups.
An evangelistic Bible study is not restricted to studying the first four chapters of John (can you tell I have Navigator training?) although it may. How I view an evangelistic Bible study is regardless of the group topic whether it be nutrition, weight loss, divorce recovery, stress management, parenting, or other life issues they are discussed in the context of the Bible and the supremacy of Christ. The intention is to share Christ.
It might be helpful to think of open groups being of two kinds. I don't have specific names for these two kinds. So, I will use examples. The first would be along our current Alpha program. Alpha is specific to challenge people about who God is and to investigate and have their questions answered about Jesus. The second type would address life issues common to individuals, families and community.
The hope is that open groups engage people in the biblical model of instruction that begins to lead people toward spiritual tranformation. This is the first step, but is only the starting line. People must be encouraged to continue their journey in a closed group experience.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
The first is corporate Worship. Corporate worship exists for believers to celebrate God's grace and mercy, to proclaim God's truth and to evangelize the lost in a atmosphere of encountering the presence, holiness and revelation of Almighty God.
The second strategy is Open Groups. Open groups lead people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. These groups are avenues of reaching into the community to minister to the communities need. This strategy is built around building relationships and encouraging yet-to-be Christians. These groups combine believers with yet-to-be believers in an atmosphere of compassion with the intention to share the gospel. These groups are open to anyone.
The next strategy is Closed Groups. Closed groups build kingdom leaders and equip believers to serve by engaging people in discipleship that moves them toward spiritual transformation through short-term, self-contained training units in an atmosphere of accountability to God and to each other. A closed group is primarily an equipping group for believers. The focus is on training in the context of discipleship.
An lastly, a Ministry Team strategy. Ministry teams exist to build up the body of Christ to accomplish the work of service within the church and to be involved in missions outside the church through new or existing kingdom units in an atmosphere of prayer and urgency for people in need of God's love.
Friday, May 26, 2006
If churches are to do effective assimilation it is imperative that there be ministry activity happening in the community. Examples of this would be if someone moves into your neighborhood. You reach out a helping hand to complete the move. Or it may be a community need like handyman work that is done by a group of servants that view this as a ministry to the community. Rather than concentrating too much on follow-up, we need to initiate contact. By initiating we intentionally develop ministries in the community that begin the process of connecting people to the church and to Christ.
The longer one is a Christian the fewer yet-to-be Christian friends on tends to have. This is sad but generally very true. Christians like to hang out with Christians. When this happens the necessary relationships with yet-to-be Christians that need to be in place in order to do effective assimilation is not nurtured. We must intentionally develop ministries that are focused out into the community to build relationship with yet-to-be Christians.
In intentionally developing ministries, we are being programmatic and organizational. What we desire to happen is that individuals begin to develop a mentality to cultivate relationships with yet-to-be Christians. This will move the process from being a program to being personal and a natural process for us. It becomes a learned way of living.
When assimilation is organic, people will naturally share Christ at a personal level. They will not have to wait on the church to mobilize them to practice evangelism or be told to make sure they invite their friends to the latest "seeker sensitive" worship service.
This should be our goal is to develop a consciousness within Christians to minister naturally instead of programmatically.
What ministries do we at FCC have that are based in the community? What are some possible ministries that could be developed?
Thursday, May 25, 2006
In April 2003, National Public Radio aired a news story about a standoff between an angry mob of Iraqi Shiites and a heavily armored patrol from the American 101st Airborne Division. Fearing that the soldiers were about to desecrate their holy shrine, hundreds of unarmed civilians pressed in toward the soldiers, waving their hands and shouting defiantly. Although the patrol's intentions were peaceful, the standoff would most likely have ended in tragedy—had it not been for the quick thinking of U.S. Lt. Col. Christopher Hughes.
The commanding officer that day, Hughes picked up a loudspeaker and barked three simple commands to his group. First, he told them to take a knee; second, to point their weapons toward the ground; and finally, to look up and give everyone in the hostile crowd a friendly smile. Within moments of obeying his orders, NPR reported, the troops saw the crowd's demeanor transform. Hostility and defiance melted away, as smiles and friendly pats on the back replaced shaking fists and screaming voices.
Lt. Col. Hughes saved the day as he acted in wisdom toward the Iraqis. I pray that the Church will follow his example. Let's take a knee (a position of humility, whereby we come as listeners and wonderers—not know-it-alls). Let's point our guns to the ground (backing away from the confrontational attempts to overpower people with our dogmatic certainty). And let's look up and smile (communicate that we're warm, friendly people who come to build bridges of care).
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Or, if we are going to allow (invite) the non-Christian to attend then we got to make it "seeker sensitive." We change our language that is no Christian jargon. We sugar-coat our questions to them.
A tangible example of this is T-shirts that are worn by Christians as a "witness." We are saying I got it and you don't.
You may have noticed in some of my last posts that I have begun to use "yet-to-be Christian" when referring to non-Christians. Now you might be thinking "Bill, you are just playing with words." And yes I am. But, I think this play on words can help us not view people as either Christian or in another class. We need to intentionally develop a view of people that includes them totally (regardless of any characteristic or trait) as people who need grace and mercy just as we once and still do.
We also need a mindset of going to there "place." We tend to try to attract the yet-to-be Christian to our safe place (church building). Think about this hypothetical possibility. Across the street from your church building every Sunday morning a group of people (age 0 to 99) gather to race remote control cars. It is a remote control car club. Some people from our church begin to recognize that they are there every Sunday morning. The wheels get to turning and ah ha the car club becomes a target group for the church. Plans begin to form. We will reach out to them with a special event geared toward them. (Note: even as I am typing this post, I am using puns that would relate to the car club.) We might do something like this. We identify Jim Blow a Christian who attends our church and owns a hobby shop as a person who would be able to relate to the club. Jim Blow will be our speaker. Let's create a nice brochure that we can put under there windshield wipers on Sunday while they are doing their club thing. On and on we plan. Should work right! Can you identify with doing something like this?
What we need to do is go to there place. What about this approach? It starts the same as we notice the yet-to-be Christians and then decide to target the car club. Rather this time the church commissions a few of it members to join the car club. The church buys the remote control cars for these commissioned people from Jim Blow's hobby shop. They begin to befriend the car club members every Sunday morning. Slowly getting to know them and slowly earning their trust with the intention of sharing Christ with them. Actually all along sharing Christ with them with the intention of one day having them make a decision about Christ.
Referring to a previous post where I identified 5 people groups that we want to assimilate. Can you think of ideas for each of these groups of how we might go to their place?
Does anyone have a suggestion for another word we might use instead of assimilation? My current working definition of assimilation is the process of intentionally bringing, including, integrating people into the life of the local church with the goal of equipping and releasing them to serve and advance the kingdom of God. What would you suggest as a few words to define this process of assimilation? Think of it in these terms rather that Assimilation Ministry, What would you call it?
Friday, May 19, 2006
Chistianity is not a doctrine but a person to whom I entrust myself without reserve. If Christianity were merely a codtrine, its leader would be just as superfluous as the teachers of any other sort of religious or philosophical sytem. The focus would be on the truth claims, which are learned and then appropriated independently of the instructor. Since, however, Christianity is not simpley a set of beliefs but is inseperably connected to the person of the Messiah, it stands or falls with him. Christianity's principles, moreover, can never be understood independently of the person of Christ. Consequently, to understand Christ's words "by themselves" - that is, as doctrine - is to discount the element from which they receive their basic meaning, the divinity of their speaker. For the true believer, it is blasphemy to say that Christ's words are merely wise or profound, for that puts them on par with human philosophies and takes away the transcendence of him who proclaimed them. Our histories was well as our destinies are caught up inextricably with the person of Jesus the Messiah. We are embroiled in messianic destiny.I increasingly find statements like this liberating. This is true freedom. I pursue Christ not a list of doctrine. I desire doctrine as a result of Jesus Christ the Messiah. Only by and through him is doctrine defined. Christ is truly all!
Thursday, May 18, 2006
I have come up with 5 people groups that either will visit a church or the church would like to reach out to and bring to the church.
- Visiting as a result of being in the area.
These people truly are visitor. They may sporadically repeat their visit to the church, but are not looking to be “assimilated.”
a. They are visiting relatives or friends
b. They are on a vacation or a business trip
- Visiting as in searching for a new church home.
a. They are new to the area.
b. Their current church is not meeting their needs.
- Visiting to investigate Christ.
a. They are invited by a current attendee of the church.
b. They have a crisis in life.
c. They have no crisis but feel something missing in their life. What is my purpose?
- Attendees of the Church.
a. They are attending worship services, but not involved or feel connected.
b. They do not see themselves as a vital part of the body of Christ.
- Those that do not attend a Church.
a. They may be opposed to the church for various reasons.
b. They may have never been exposed to the church.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Assimilation is the task of moving people from an awareness of your church to attendance at your church to active membership in your church. - Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church
Assimilation is the process by which we welcome, receive, and incorporate individuals (families) into our community of believers.
Assimilation has three components: absorption, integration, and incorporation. Assimilation as absorption is to bring into the tradition of a group. Assimilation as integration is to coordinate or blend into a unified whole. Assimilation as incorporation is to unite into one body. - Robert Bast, Attracting New Members
Assimilation is the process of intentionally bringing, including, integrating people into the life of the local church with the goal of equipping and releasing them to serve both the local church and the kingdom of God. - Owen Facey, A Guide To Assimilation In The Local Church
Ron Jenson and Jim Stevens refer to assimilation as absorption. They define absorption as the process by which people are taken into the life of the church and by which a strong sense of identity and belonging develops. - Dynamics of Church GrowthThere are many definitions and each is different. Yet they are all true. Each contains aspects that we would all agree are assimilation. Some of us probably look at these definition and resonate with them at many levels as I do.
The one I resonate with most is Owen Facey's. I particularly like the idea of "intentionally bringing." The other definitions seem to imply that the people come on their own or are attracted to the church. We as a church can believe if only we can find the right program, topic, buzz word or speaker etc. That not-yet-Christians will come to us. When I read Facey's definition I get the sense of going to the not-yet-Christian and "bringing" them. Look for more on this in a later post on assimilation.
Which definition do you resonate with, or do you have another definition?
Next post, I will try to identify the people groups we are assimilating.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
- The act or process of assimilating.
The state of being assimilated.
- Physiology. The conversion of nutriments into living tissue; constructive metabolism.
- Linguistics. The process by which a sound is modified so that it becomes similar or identical to an adjacent or nearby sound. For example, the prefix in- becomes im- in impossible by assimilation to the labial p of possible.
- The process whereby a minority group gradually adopts the customs and attitudes of the prevailing culture.
Don't you just love it when they use a form of the word to define the word. So, lets try assimilate.
To consume and incorporate (nutrients) into the body after digestion.
To transform (food) into living tissue by the process of anabolism; metabolize constructively.
- To incorporate and absorb into the mind: assimilate knowledge.
- To make similar; cause to resemble.
- Linguistics. To alter (a sound) by assimilation.
- To absorb (immigrants or a culturally distinct group) into the prevailing culture.
Out of those five definitions for assimilate, I believe two are applicable to some degree of what assimilation is or should be about in a body of believers (church). The two are numbers 3 and 5.
To assimilate an individual into the church based on these definition must relate to making similar or cause to resemble and to absorb into the prevailing culture. However, I am not sure that "prevailing" is the correct word. As prevailing gives the sense of most frequent or predominant.
Next post, I will look at a more refined definition specifically related to the church.
If you want to know my second application, ask me about it.
Monday, May 15, 2006
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. (Matthew 11:12)
I read this verse this past weekend and was challenged by it. I looked up the word forcefully in the dictionary. The definition I found is: characterized by or full of force; effective. Other translations use the words suffered violence or has been coming violently (ESV and KJ).
God's kingdom is advancing from the days of John the Baptist through Jesus Christ and then by the Holy Spirit through men like the apostles and then many other men through out history. And has continued to advance to this present day. The kingdom will continue to advance and will one day be fully established by the return of Jesus Christ. I pray for that day to come quickly. And as I wait for that day, I must allow the Holy Spirit to work through me to effectively advance the kingdom day by day. These advancements which we are mercifully allowed to participate in are a foretaste of that final day.
I desire to be a forceful man who will be used by God to advance His kingdom.