March 30, 2011

5 Marks of a Revived Church: Growth

Over the past few weeks we have looked at the marks of a Revived Church as found in Acts 2:42-47. It says...
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Out of these we have drawn our 5 Marks:

  • Truth
  • Worship
  • Community
  • Growth
  • Mission

The 5 Marks are the principles that will guide us as we start this new church here in Huber Heights. So we have been studying each Mark, and then looking at what they mean for the vision of Crossroads Vineyard.

This morning we are looking at the Mark of Growth.

Talking to a church about the need to grow has always been tough for me...not so much the need to grow spiritually, but the need to grow numerically. In a way it is like tithing...it can sound self-serving...like I’m trying to build my own Kingdom.

I believe wholeheartedly that churches should grow by reaching its community with the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s love for them...but I have always hated that it has started with the idea of growing a church.

When I was part of the Church of the Nazarene, almost every district meeting I attended spent time encouraging pastors to grow their church and talking strategies of how to do that. Add in the pastor’s conferences, books, and magazine articles about “How to Grow Your Church”...and pretty soon you start looking at the numbers and believing your worth and value as a pastor and person are determined by the size of you church.

I believe, however, that while we must talk about growing as a church...it doesn’t have to start or end with a numerical discussion. Because we are not talking about building my Kingdom or even Crossroads Vineyard Church...we are talking about extending the influence of God’s Kingdom.

As I was thinking and praying about this message, I realized that when we talk about growth...we are talking about something much deeper. We don’t grow by thinking about growing and focusing on the growth itself. We grow by focusing on building a healthy church that seeks after God and loves people.

I’m a horrible gardener. I can almost kill a plant just by looking at it...it is my superpower! But I do know that plants grow as a result of being healthy...having the right soil, the right amount of sun, the right nutrients...water. Their growth is in two key areas: a strong root system and also by reaching out farther and higher.

Building a healthy church should be our starting point. Growth is a natural result of a healthy organism, and healthy churches grow. We need to grow stronger internally and we need to grow stronger by reaching out farther and farther with God’s love and forgiveness.

Growth happens when we focus on being a healthy church and doing what God commands not on the growth itself.

This world and this community needs healthy churches that take seriously the call to expand the Kingdom of God. People need to hear about Jesus, accept His loving forgiveness, find healing for their hurts, and know that God loves them. We, need to grow up, to mature in our faith so that we can be all that God has called us to, and so we can fulfill our part of His mission to rescue this world.

For us, growth will show up in two key areas: Evangelism (Kingdom growth) and Discipleship (maturity growth). We grow out AND we grow up.

Before we look at Evangelism and Discipleship...we have to look at one key component.

Growth starts with our leaders.

Organizations live or die because of its leadership. Movements get started, and soon fall apart for lack of leadership.

I was part of a small group that used to meet twice-a-month. For the first few months, things went very well. We had a book we studied. The leader was prepared. We were focused. But then the leader stopped leading, and no one stepped up. We continued meeting for a while...having dinner together...but because no one would take leadership we weren’t focused and had no direction. We eventually stopped meeting and lost contact.

Leadership is important, and it is especially important to church health. Churches are healthy or toxic because of the leadership. So leaders must be growing spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and in their leadership ability. Crossroads Vineyard will not grow much beyond the level at which we can lead. So, if the leaders are not growing...we can not grow.

This message series grew out of a period of growth for me. I realized the need to have a more cohesive vision of the future for Crossroads. I had a lot of thoughts and ideas, but nothing concrete. I hadn’t really laid out a vision for where we were going over the next couple of years, and what I believe God wanted us to work toward. So I started praying, and God challenged me to step up and articulate some of things He had laid upon my heart. They have become part of this message series shaped by Acts 2:42-47.

The health of this church depends upon me and its leaders passionately pursuing God and stretching themselves to grow in our ability to lead.

And being committed to building a healthy church that grows means...

We are committed to Evangelism

Rebecca Pippert in her book Out of the Salt Shaker & Into the World writes, "Christians and non-Christians have something in common. We're all uptight about evangelism."

We don’t like to do evangelism and non-Christians don’t like to be evangelized...and it’s because evangelism has been turned turned into a technique or method that is more sales oriented than love based. It has been reduced to a decision instead of helping a person realize God loves them. And it has created false guilt for many of us because we know we are called to evangelized, but don’t want to do that kind of evangelism!

We have this vision of what someone who evangelizes is like. I want to introduce you to someone who breaks that mold.

God has called everyone of His followers to be an evangelist...but that term has become so bogged down with bad connotations and false ideas of what it means that we shy away from it. But evangelism doesn’t have to be a confrontation and it certainly shouldn’t take place with an impersonal tract left on a restaurant table.

If we follow the biblical example, evangelism is personal and loving. It respects the person, and doesn’t force itself upon them. God’s grace gives people time to make a decision to follow Him, not based upon fear or guilt, but because He loves them and wants their love.

I don’t know about you, but I am compelled to reach out to others because I know what God’s love has done for of me. I know how His forgiveness has transformed my life, and I want others to experience that.

At Crossroads Vineyard we are not seeking more people just to say, “Look how big our church is.” We want to be able to say, “Look at what God has done...how many lives have been transformed by His presence.”

We are striving to be a healthy church that grows because we are reaching out to our community and people are becoming followers of Christ, being loved and cared for, and their hurts are being healed. We are not looking to be the best church in our community...we are looking to be the best church FOR our community.

Being committed to building a healthy church that grows also means...

We are committed to Discipleship

Evangelism is not the end of our responsibility as a church. We are not seeking to get a decision...we are trying to make disciples. In order to understand the difference between decision-getting and disciple-making we have to look at a common misconception in our modern church.

The Bible never speaks of “being saved” in the way many talk about it. We talk about saying a Sinner’s prayer to be saved, and it often has the idea of buying a ticket guaranteeing we won’t go to hell. Almost like a contract we sign with God...we signed on the line with our prayer and God guarantees we go to heaven.

The Bible, however, talks about following and being in relationship with Jesus; reminding us that this is an ongoing thing. It is not just a single-moment in time...it is a journey.

These are two very different understandings of “being saved;” one biblical and one not. In one we say the prayer, and we are good. As a result many “Christian’s” lives don’t reflect Christ at all because they are only seeking to escape hell or get into heaven, and they really don’t want anything to do with Jesus or His way of doing life.

In the other, the biblical approach, it is a relationship. It began, maybe with a sinner’s prayer, but the person began following Jesus. They don’t get things perfect, but they are seeking to do life in the way Jesus would.

One is a decision...the other is a disciple, and God wants disciples. Being a disciple means that our lives are being transformed to look more and more like Jesus. It means, as the Apostle Paul says, that we are being renewed by the transformation of our minds. It means Scripture, prayer, and ministry become foundational to how we define ourselves as Christians. It means our lives are more shaped by a desire to live out the mission of God than it is to live the American Dream.

Conclusion

Our mission as a church is to reach out to people with God’s love and forgiveness and help them grow in their faith. We will be a church that helps people take their next step closer to God. There are people who need God’s love and forgiveness, they need what we have, and we get to be the people who Go as His witnesses and make disciples of all nations.

Our evangelism will be personal and loving. We are an outward-focused church that goes into our community to make a difference. We will be compassionate and loving toward others; respecting their views, listening to them, and lovingly caring for them.

  • I believe we can be a church of 400 people by year 5.
  • This means making room for about 120 children and teenagers and 280 adults...who need Jesus.
  • Outward Focused Servant Evangelism to show God’s love in a practical way.
  • During the summer, I would love for teams of people to hold 10 Neighborhood Meet and Greets by the end of this year. Invite your neighbors over for a picnic or block party, and we will give each team $100 to help them hold a get to know your neighbor event.
  • Each year we will hold a couple of major “invite-worthy” events and Message series’ a year for you to invite people. (I will be on my best behavior, etc.)

Because growing the influence of the Kingdom of God is not limited to our congregation...I believe we can plant a new church in the next 5 years and even more in following years.

  • We will need church planters recruited, trained, and released to plant churches.
  • We will need teams of people to go with them consisting of trained worship leaders, children’s pastors, and evangelism coordinators.
  • We will need to be praying for the top areas where God wants us to put churches over the next few years.

We cannot be content with just getting decisions...we have to help people grow and learn to do life as Jesus’ followers.

  • to have 75% of our people engaged in regular spiritual deepening opportunities: Christian Life Classes, Yearly Bible Reading program, Small Groups, etc.
  • I believe a key component of growing in Christ is regular, private times spent with God. My goal is to provide resources to help you spend quality, private time with God, and help people do this 4 or more days a week. I want to do a spiritual disciplines class to help us discover new ways of spending time in God’s presence.
  • Over the next year we will offer Spiritual Growth and Deepening Classes to help people grow in their faith...eventually building a whole course of study. I believe that Bible and theology classes will help us grow our minds and better understand the Bible...leading to deeper discipleship.
  • We will regularly challenge people to step out of their comfort zone and stretch themselves in serving and ministry in order to grow. You will be challenged to serve because all the knowledge in the world is useless unless we are putting feet to it and serving. People grow when they are serving. If you want to be a leader...start serving.

Our goal is to extend the influence of God’s Kingdom and Mission into our world.

March 23, 2011

Thoughts on Worship

This is a guest post by one of our launch team members Shane Knick. Enjoy!

This was an amazing weekend and one to go down in the book of the annals of Crossroads Vineyard
Church. It was our second regular weekly service with a great message on the topic of worship. Saturday night before service, several members were led by an instigator to be left unnamed (but we all know who you are Cyndi), to commit cyber-terrorism on Eric’s Facebook page. It was primarily meant to pick on yours truly and my tendency to “Like” posts and comments on Facebook occasionally. At any rate, there was significant bonding going on in the virtual world of Crossroads Vineyard.

The service started out with a video What If Worship Was Like an NBA Game, a humorous video
comparing the typical Sunday morning at church to a stereotypical sports broadcast.




In this video, they poke fun at “Maggie Jenson, the veteran over-singer”. She was belting out the song with great vigor when clearly things were falling apart and people were leaving. However, she is the only one in the congregation who appeared to be worshiping “with all of her might”. Playing at a worship event the following night, things were not going so well. Our bass player didn’t show up; our leader’s guitar stopped working in the middle of a song, and the sound board was acting strange. Despite all this, we kept playing right through because we were playing for God, not the people in the room. I can’t read Maggie’s heart, but she certainly appeared to be worshipping despite what was going on around her.

Notable quote from the message, “Real worship does not happen until we give up control.” The first time I raised my arms to the Lord in worship was a scary moment for me. For quite a while, I felt moved to do so, but what would people think with me raising my hand around all these other people raising their hands? When I finally did, there was a release of something from my soul. The enemy lost a stronghold on my heart that day. I don’t think we should raise their hands or perform other worship gestures just because others are doing so, but we should fight the inhibitions preventing us to do so as we feel led.

Worship comes in many different forms. I think there are several critical components; that we are led by the Sprit of God, we are directing it completely towards God, and that we do it with all of our might. A good sign that we are not following these guidelines is if we are considering what other people might think. David stripped down completely nude to dance before the Lord. I am praying that God never puts it on Eric’s heart to do that. David’s wife naturally assumed that he was stripping for the slave girls, when he was truly worshipping God without inhibition.

Finally there was the epic Prayer and Worship Sunday afternoon. We had our typical good time together with prayer, planning and good food. We then fired up the Wii, playing dancing and singing along to old memories. Many were left laughing so hard that it hurt (in a good way), and the fellowship fired up on Facebook again that evening. I think it is important going forward that we continue to have this much fun with each other. I certainly felt God’s presence with us that evening as any parent enjoys watching his children laugh and play in a healthy way. We need to make sure going forward that others are included as well. There are many people in Huber Heights and surrounding areas that need to laugh until it hurts as we did.

Shane has been permanently replace one of his hands with a Facebook and Twitter app...look him up at shknick

March 21, 2011

5 Marks of a Revived Church: Community

Over the past few weeks we have looked at the first two marks of five of a Revived Church. Following the powerful movement of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2, many turned to Jesus and became part of this fledgling group. Acts 2:42-47 says...
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Out of these we have drawn our 5 Marks:

  • Truth
  • Worship
  • Community
  • Growth
  • Mission

The 5 Marks are the foundational principles we will use to guide us as we start this new church here in Huber Heights. So we have been studying each Mark, and then looking at what they mean for the vision of Crossroads Vineyard.

This morning we are looking at the Mark of Community.

In the 1940’s Dr. Rene Spitz became concerned when infants at an orphanage were dying despite having proper nutrition and a sterile environment. Later it was discovered that because the number of babies had grown so rapidly...many were not receiving any significant human touch. The rise in infant mortality was traced to this lack of human touch.

Dr. Ben Benjamin states, "touch is vital for survival in the very young," and psychologist Dr. Robert W. Hatfield points out, "affectionate touch is vital for all human ages". Research even indicates that healing is helped by human touch and hindered by its absence.

From the very beginning, human beings have had a fundamental need to be in community. We are created to love and be loved.

When God created Adam, He walked with him in the cool of the evening, and, after spending some time with him, said, “It is not good for man to be alone...he is going to do something stupid if he is left alone!” So God gave man woman to keep him in line...to make sure he didn’t wear that shirt with those pants, play video games all day, or spend his money on something stupid.

So God was present with man and gave him woman, but even these two relationships, God and Man-Man and Woman, do not seem to be enough to fulfill the longing for relationships we have as human beings. There is this drive within forcing us to seek friendships beyond these two...to find others with whom we can share our lives.

At the same time, sin creates this opposing force to prevent real relationships from developing.

So we live in this tension. We desire relationships and seek them out, but we also create barriers that keep us from being in real relationships.

What are some of these barriers?

  • Busyness
  • Newness
  • Self-protection
  • Fear
  • Previous wounds
  • Lack of ability to forgive.
  • Inability or lack of desire to listen.
  • Over-inflated ego or the desire to always be right.

We see these all the time...there is the person who is so busy doing stuff that they never build significant relationships...another person doesn’t want to be “new” to a group...others because they have been hurt in previous relationships are determined to never let that happen again...someone else can’t let anyone close because they have to be right or they haven’t learned to listen to others.

Despite these barriers and more...we need community. We must find a way to fight through them, and build relationships with others...even the author of Ecclesiastes, who finds everything meaningless, recognizes value in relationships.

Ecclesiastes 4:7-12,
“Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’

This too is meaningless—a miserable business!

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
And despite the human need for relationships...people are becoming more and more isolated.

Gregory Rodriguez, LA Times, Lonliness is a Pain, points out...
“In 1985, when researchers asked a cross-section of Americans how many [close friends] they had, the most common response was three. When they asked again in 2004, the most common answer...was zero, nil, nada.

In 1950, only 9.3% of American households consisted of people living alone. By 2000, that percentage had jumped to a whopping 26%.”

Our lives are more isolated than ever before, and we are isolated even while there are people all around us...waiters, fast food workers, grocery cashiers, co-workers, and we even attend church with people...but it’s easy to not really know any of them.

Acts 2 holds the answer in one, simple Greek word...koinonia.

Koinonia-means ”to share in.” It is a fellowship with other Christians in faith and in service. Sharing each other’s joys and pains...and even when we are not suffering we share with those who do.

In 1 John, Koinonia is an extension of the Father-Son relationship of God that extends to all Christians. It is a family fellowship of believers.

This disconnected group became koinonia...they became a fellowship...they became a community. Acts 2 says they were together and had everything in common...they sold possessions so that no one was in need...they met together...they broke bread in their homes and ate together.

This community has taken many names through the years...gatherings, followers, disciples, but the term we are most familiar with is Church. And despite its many flaws and warts...we need the church.

One of the advantages we have over most other churches is that we meet in an aerobic room. Why is this an advantage? Because we are forced to view the church as it should be...as it was meant to be...Church is the people. It is not a building or It is not an institution. It does take organization and structure like any other gathering of people...but Church is the people.

We don’t become the church...we don’t develop community...by just attending a weekend service. So let’s look at how we can become the church...

We become the church by participating in God’s actions.
God is at work in our world. He is working in people’s lives everywhere. And we, as the church, are called to celebrate and participate in God’s actions in our lives and in the world around us.

Finding God’s actions takes work because He works, as He did with Elijah, in a whisper. So for us to see His work...in order to recognize it and point it out...we have to really pay attention. We have to listen carefully, and look for where God is moving...because God is not loud about it.

Everything else is loud and exciting. Tragedy, heartache, disappointment, 24 hour news...all fight to grab our attention. It is like the 4 year-old saying , “Look at me!” over and over. They try to make us believe that they have the last word about the fate of our world.

But God has called us to proclaim His Kingdom; a Kingdom that entered our world through Jesus Christ, and promises to restore all of creation to what God intended it to be...to bring true justice and peace, to rid the world of evil, and establish itself forever. God’s Kingdom hasn’t come fully into our world, but the early church saw themselves as a community that reflected God’s coming Kingdom on earth.

Imagine a world with true peace and justice...no more tragedies such as happened in Japan...no more human slave trafficking...no more hunger. It was this vision of God’s Kingdom that the early church saw and became a reflection of...selling their possessions to take care of those in need among their group.

If we look closely we can see where the Kingdom has come and celebrate it, join in, and point it out to others. We, as the church, get to be part of bringing God’s Kingdom to our world. We get to be instruments of peace, justice, and love for each other.

We become the church by learning to love and be loved.
Jesus’ unfortunately has an unanswered prayer. In John 13:34-35 Jesus prays, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

The history of the church demonstrates that we have not always loved each other well. Our history is scarred with fighting, bickering, even killing. Our “love” has not always been the example of God’s presence it needs to be.

When we gather in community, we come with different backgrounds, perceptions, even some different understandings of God, but what should draw us as a community is our common faith in Jesus Christ. There have been times when the church has loved as it ought to love, and we can be that example right here in Huber Heights.

But learning to love and be loved is not easy. It takes work, and those barriers kick in setting up walls...pretty soon we don’t love others and they can’t love us.

We must learn to love each other warts and all. Everyone needs a place where they can be transparent and be themselves...otherwise we end up hiding, putting on a mask. We need a place where we can ask the deep questions, share our hurts...not so we can wallow around in our misery together...but so we can grow and heal. We need a place where we can be loved.

We become the church by ministering to others.
1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4 list out the “spiritual gifts.” The Bible tells us that each of us, when we commit to following Christ receives one or more of these gifts through the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. These are gifts, however, are not for our personal benefit. They are given for us to use within community.

The Apostle Paul calls this amazing phenomenon the Body of Christ. When we commit to being in community, to being part of the gathered people known as church, our spiritual gifts combine with the spiritual gifts of others to acts as a complete body.

Basil of Caesarea, an early church Bishop from the late 300’sAD, understood the value of people being present. He said, “When we live our lives in isolation, what we have is unavailable and what we lack is unprocurable.”

In our Western-American culture, we have been nurtured to believe that we can be independent, complete people, not depending on other people...we even have a name for it...Rugged Individualism. The Bible is very clear that we cannot live a Christian life alone...it has to be done in community.

We need community because those in the community need us, and because we need those in the community. You are less than you should be when you are not present and using your gifts. We are less than we should be as Christians when you are not present and using your spiritual gifts. You are needed because what you add to the community is vitally important.

I have found this true with many of you. I told our launch team early on...”I have the tendency to get carried away and do too much. Please feel free to stop me.” While setting up for our first service at the Hampton Inn...I was doing too much, and Angie Knick looked at me said, “Eric! Sit down and shut up. We’ve got this.” Barb Eddy is always saying, “I have the gift of faith!” And there have been times over the past 7 months that I have needed to hear her speak out of her gift of faith. There are more times than I can name over the past months and years, and I am a better Christian and a better pastor because you are here.

As we gather as the Church, you will be better because you have joined with us than you could ever be on your own...and we will be better than we could be because you are here.

Conclusion
People do get hurt in community. People say things. Tempers flair. We do stupid things. So forgiveness is an absolute necessity...but imagine what Huber Heights could be like if we were the church, loving, caring, accepting, and forgiving others. What if we welcomed people, and saw ourselves as better off because they were now part of us.
As we look to the future, I’m excited about what we can be...but we all have a part to play. In regards to being a community:

  • We will be a place where people are loved, accepted, and made to feel safe in exploring their questions and doubts.
  • Community is where pastoral care and ministry will take place...we are called to do the work of ministry. I am not the minister. WE are ministers. I’m the one God has called to pray, teach, lead, and train us all how to be better ministers. But we all get to participate in doing ministry to others. So when a person is sick or in the hospital, and one of you visits and prays with them...they have been visited and prayed for by the church. When people are in need, your ministry to them is as good if not better than mine because you are there with them.
  • We will build friendships where we can be open to confess our struggles and doubts and know we will be loved and prayed for.
  • My goal is to establish 35 small groups by the time we are 5 years old.

I just love what videographers do in this video we are going to watch. They traveled around the world and recorded a wide variety of street musicians playing the song Stand By Me. They all listened to the first guy singing, and then added their talents and abilities to the song each giving it something new amazing. I think this is a great metaphor for what we can be as a community as we all our talents and abilities, and learn to play in unison with each other.

March 15, 2011

Things that Keep Us from Worshipping

This list didn't make the cut in this past weekend's sermon. 

These are things that keep us from worshipping:
  1. An unprepared heart-we spend a hectic week rushing and doing more, and never take the time to worship God in our private lives.
  2. Distraction-too much going on and/or an unwillingness to trust God to take care of things.
  3. Lack of forgiveness-our lack of forgiveness of others stands in the way of really worshipping God.
  4. Wrong understanding of worship-we are looking for worship to be an emotion, a feeling, a particular style...worship is more than these things.
  5. Lack of expectation-we come not really expecting God to speak or show up.

March 14, 2011

5 Marks of a Revived Church: Worship

Last week we talked about Truth and being committed to seeking Jesus, Following God’s Word, and being Doctrinally Sound. Today we are looking at the second mark...worship. And over the next couple of weeks we will look at Community, Growth, and Mission.

Since we are talking about worship, I thought I would show this video that Billy sent me...what would it look like if worship

A revived church is committed to being a place where God is worshiped.

As humans we are hardwired to worship. Even if we are not worshiping God; we will worship something.

In a lecture at Oregon State University, Rabbi Ariel Stone said, “For all that it has been sullied and mishandled, there is apparently a need we have for [worship], something that we cannot as human beings do without.”

There is something to which everyone of us will give our time, energy, money, attention, and homage. In my own life, I have found that whatever I spend the majority of my time, energy, and money on...that is what I’m really worshiping, and it isn’t always God. But if we are going to be the church God is calling us to be...we must learn to worship.

The passage we have been reflecting on for this series reminds us of how the early church committed themselves to worship:

Acts 2:42-47 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

The early church wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but they devoted themselves to worshipping God. They saw the necessity of honoring God, of meeting together, and of spending time in prayer.

As we move forward we have to seek to be a worshipping church. True worship must be a mark of our lives too. So we must learn what worship is, and do it.

Throughout the Bible there are several different words we translate as worship, and they can be grouped into two primary categories: words that focus on the one being worshiped and words that focus on the one doing the worshipping.

shachah: "bowing down before an object of honor"
egid: "showing respect" or "doing homage"
gonu and gonupeteo: "bending the knee"
proskuneo: to kiss toward...it was falling flat out in front of...used of the Magi in Matthew.

The primary focus is on the fact that the one being honored and bowed down to is truly worthy of the homage they are being paid. And, while it does describe the action of the worshipper, the worshipper doesn’t bow down to someone who is unworthy.

The second set of words:
abad: "service or work for God"
latreuo: derived from latris - "servant"
leitourgeo: means a work of the people. From which we get the word liturgy...meaning how the service is put together.

The focus here is on the person’s response...because worship is not just a thought in our head, it is expressed through our actions. We gather together, we sing, we learn God’s Word, we live in community, we do acts of service...all of these things are actions which can be done as acts of worship.

Two different aspects of worship are expressed here: first, there is a God who is worthy to be worshipped and second, there is the question of how we express that worship.

So let’s take a moment and give ourselves a working definition of worship.

This is how I define worship...Worship is responding to God’s grace by humbly bowing ourselves to Christ and sacrificially serving God with our lives.

Worship isn’t about style...it isn’t about the music...it isn’t about how I feel or will feel because of it. It is our giving God the honor he deserves and living a life that continually gives honor to Him.

Let’s break this apart.

We are responding to God’s grace...
Worship is first a response. From the beginning, God has been revealing Himself to human beings and calling them to follow Him. Ultimately, Jesus Christ has provided forgiveness for our sins and made a way for us to have a relationship with Him. We can’t save ourselves. We can’t clean up our lives on our own. We need Jesus.

I like the way Tim Keller puts it, “I am far worse than I imagine and simultaneously more loved and accepted by God than I ever dared to hope.”

God acted first...He reveals himself to us and makes relationship available.

It is because of this love and acceptance that we can respond in worship...we don’t need to be reminded of how bad we are or how much we fail...most of us are painfully aware that we are sinful and need God’s forgiveness and love. What we need to realize is that God loves us and accepts us more than we could ever imagine or dare to hope. And when we realize, when the Holy Spirit reveals the power of this love to us...we can’t help but worship.

He was willing to do whatever it took to restore that broken relationship between us and Him, and that makes Him absolutely worthy of our worship.

...humbly bowing ourselves to Christ...
In Middle Eastern cultures as in Asian cultures, bowing is a show of respect and trust. The worshipper bears the back of their neck, the most vulnerable part of their body, to the person...who could strike at any time and take their head.

For us, bowing is a sign of surrender. It is recognizing that God’s way is the best way, and we are submitting ourselves to His leadership.

Part of what kept me from accepting Christ as a teenager was my refusal to surrender to God. I knew He wanted my career, and I didn’t want to be a pastor. He wanted to be in charge, and I wanted to be in charge.

And before I was ever able to worship, I had to relinquish control to Him.

...and sacrificially serving God with our lives.
Worship costs us. It is an act of sacrifice. When the Bible uses words that describe worship as a “service” or “work” it reminds us that worship requires an action and a cost on our part.

One of my favorite stories from King David’s life is the story from 1 Chronicles 21. David, doubting God’s ability to protect him, conducts a census to find out how many fighting men are in Israel. God judges David’s sinful behavior and punishes him. David rushes out ahead of the angel that is bringing judgment to make a sacrifice. He comes upon the a threshing floor owned by a man named Araunah. As King David approaches Araunah bows before him. When David asks for the threshing floor, Araunah wants to give it to him. But David says something that reminds us of an important principle in worship. 1 Chronicles 21:24 says, “But King David replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.’”

So worship is sacrificial, but it also involves our whole life.

I think there is something quite amazing about the Monastic life. I remember reading the spiritual autobiography of the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, and the significant impact it had on my spiritual life. I was overcome with the sense of how much time they spend in prayer and God’s word, and convict by my lack.

One of the unique things about monks is they see all of life as sacred. Even in their work they consider themselves worshipping. “The way monks approach their prayer life and their other forms of labor are all in the same stream..they see work as an offering to God, an act of worship, a way of adoring their Creator. This is called the sacramental life. Seeing all of life as sacred, as worship.”

All of our life...our work...our family time...our play time...all of it can be an act of worship.

Conclusion
So we come back to our definition: Worship is responding to God’s grace by humbly bowing ourselves to Christ and sacrificially serving God with our lives.

Worship is not about

  • the music
  • the style of the service
  • an emotional response
  • or having good feelings

Worship is about God’s action and our response. If we are seeking to honor Him...then we are worshipping.

John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard, says “Too many Christians today focus on a cosmetic view of Christianity in which they see themselves in self-improvement programs. Come to Jesus and get your marriage fixed. Come to Jesus and become prosperous. Come to Jesus and get this or that blessing or whatever thing they are looking for. We emphasize strongly to come to Jesus because He is worthy to be worshipped, whether or not He fixes our marriages or heals our bodies or gives us new cars.”

Jesus is worthy of our worship.

For us as a church, worship shows up in two key areas. Corporate worship and Personal worship. We must be committed to worshiping God as a gathered people on Sundays and in small groups...this is called corporate worship. We must also be committed to worshiping God each day in the privacy our own rooms...that is personal worship.

Huber Heights needs a church that exhibits revived worship...not just in its service on Sunday, but in the daily lives of its members.

So we will equip you to worship God both as a large gathered community of believers on weekends, during our small groups, and during the week in the privacy of homes.

We will form full worship teams that lead us in dynamic, relevant worship that draw our attention to God. We will also develop and train worship leaders to send out into churches we plant and into our world to help others worship God.

We will also draw from almost 2,000 years of Christian history in our worship...finding ways to incorporate the Christian calendar and ancient practices of the Christian faith that will deepen our time with God.

We will be relevant. Which believe simply means we will be ourselves. Music sounds like the music we normally listen to. We will us words and language we would normally use. We will dress like we would normally dress.

We will seek quality and creativity in our worship services using media, music, movies, whatever helps us connect the message of the Bible to our lives so we can draw closer to God and be obedient to Him.

I want to invite you again on this journey we are taking to start a new church, Crossroads Vineyard Church, here in Huber Heights.

March 6, 2011

5 Marks of a Revived Church: Truth


Here is the first message of our Series 5 Marks of a Revived Church: Truth. Check out this new church in Huber Heights, Ohio: Crossroads Vineyard Church or on Facebook.

We are starting a new message series that will last the next couple of weeks. We actually started it at our last service by looking at the 5 Marks of a Revived Church as described in Acts 2.
“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:41-47

Those 5 Marks are:
  1. Truth
  2. Worship
  3. Community
  4. Growth
  5. Mission

So we are going to look at each Mark, discuss what it means, and we are also going to use them as springboards for discussing it means for the vision of Crossroads Vineyard here in Huber Heights.

When talking about vision for a church plant I feel a little like this Calvin and Hobbes Cartoon...





There is so much room for the spectacular ride of our lives...or we could end up with crushing, hopeless defeat...but I certainly don’t want to take the sissy weasel way...it’s too boring.

But here is the secret...God is the one calling us forward. A couple of months ago I started asking myself, “What vision of church would be so compelling, so exciting, that I would give sacrificially of my time, my energy, my money, and my abilities to see it accomplished?” and the second question “How could I describe that in such a way that others got that excited with me?” I made that my prayer to God because I know that no matter what I dream up...it isn’t near what God wants to accomplish here. And He has been speaking to me about some pretty big things.

So each week we are going to look at a part of that vision through the lens of these 5 marks starting today with the Mark: Truth.

I grew up rather begrudgingly in the Church. Sunday School class after church service after revival meeting...I was at them all. I have always been skeptical, questioning everything. I don’t believe things simply because you say so. So I asked a lot of questions...especially when the answers didn’t seem to be sufficient.

I discovered that many of the teachers and preachers were uncomfortable being asked the hard questions. They had answers, but they seemed more rehearsed that reflected upon.

In fact, I used to mock what I called the “Sunday School Answers.” You know you ask a question and every one of them is answered with either “Jesus” or “The Bible.”

I also discovered that if you probed too much, asked the “wrong” question, or made them feel too uncomfortable then your faith was doubted. Because true followers of Jesus “trust and obey”. Because “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!”

I wasn’t trying to create problems (most of the time); I just wanted the truth. Although as a rebellious teenager forced to be in church, I learned that questions could create some uncomfortable moments, and I used that to my advantage...but that’s another story altogether.

College and seminary were very different. My professors faced the tough questions head on, and the answers looked nothing like what I had told. It was a struggle for me to reconcile the difference between my professors and my preachers. Why weren’t the people in my local church willing to share this stuff? What was it about the questions that scared many of them? Did they even know this stuff?

All I wanted was the Truth, and in the Revived Church truth is important.

When we start searching for truth we often have to wade through a large amount of half-truths and full-lies in order to find it.

But if we search intently...
We find truth in some unexpected places.

We find that truth is always honest; sometimes brutally so.

We find that truth is not easy, simply, or black and white...especially in this world.

And, yet, we have to keep looking. There is something within us that keeps pushing us toward finding the truth. And the Church should be the front runner in seeking for and speaking the truth.

We have to be willing to ask and wrestle with the tough questions, and not reject others for asking those questions. We have to proclaim the truth even when it hurts. We have to acknowledge truth wherever it is found. And, we have to acknowledge that truth is not always clear and simple.

For the Revived Church we have three ways to seek and find truth. First...
Seeking Truth means we are committed to seeking Jesus.

Seeking Jesus has not always been my first priority. I sought after escape from hell and getting into heaven...I sought after the next ministry job...I sought after recognition for my “spiritualness” or my abilities in ministry...I have sought after many things. But I am learning more and more that real truth is only found when we abandon all else to seek Jesus.

One verse that really hit this home for me was Hebrews 1:3. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

Jesus is the “exact representation” of God. Everything I want to know...what God thinks...what God feels...how God would act if I were in His presence...are found in Jesus.

This could be seen as just another Sunday School Answer...but following is more difficult than it was portrayed to me. His teachings are deeper and more hard-hitting than ever taught to me. He isn’t an easy answer. And he never was...when you get home look at Luke 9:57-62 where Jesus challenges potential disciples with the one thing that stands in the way of their following him. Not easy.

Even Jesus’ disciples struggled to understand this.

In John 14, Jesus is revealing his death and resurrection to the disciples, and is trying to help them grasp the connection between He and the Father. Thomas says, “We don’t know where you are going. Can you give us some directions?”

And, in verse 6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

The answer is both simple and difficult: just follow me.

In order for us to find Truth, we have to start with the person of Jesus. We have to dedicate our lives to listening, following, and learning from Him. It isn’t a one-time action; it is a lifelong daily endeavor filled with constant discovery and growth.

The more I seek after the Truth as found in Jesus, the more I discover the lies and half-truths that I have come to accept as truth. I have to rearrange priorities. I have had to rearrange the very direction of my life. Truth requires nothing less.

As the Church, knowing and following Jesus must be our first priority.

The second way a Revived Church seeks and find truth is...
We are committed to Scripture.

For centuries, people had no access to Scripture. They gathered in community to listen to Scripture being read. They listened intently and memorized it because they were never sure when they would hear it again.

Today, 340 million people still do not have the Bible in their language. But we have unprecedented access to Scripture. 9 out of 10 Americans own a Bible. We probably own multiple Bibles. We have it on our phones, our computers, and on mp3. It is everywhere.

And yet...35% of born-again Christians do not read the Bible at all. Among those who say they read the Bible, 2 in 5 read it once a week, and the vast majority only read it during the time they attend church each weekend or in one to two verse increments.

The Center for Bible Engagement found that those who read the Bible 4x a week or more were more likely to exhibit a godly lifestyle. But this can be misleading. I don’t think they read the Bible 4x a week in order to live godly lives. I think they read the Bible 4x because they have a passion to know God.

Someone could read this and say I don’t read the Bible 4x a week, and feel guilty for the wrong thing: not reading their Bible more often. We can’t guilt ourselves into reading God’s word and magically living a godly life. We have seen what guilt driven religion does to people.

It isn’t about reading the Bible 4x a week. We shouldn’t have to be told to read the Bible 4x a week. Why? Because people who are passionately in love with Jesus want to read the letter He left us.

When Lori and I started dating we only saw each other 2-3 times a week at church. The rest of the time we talked on the phone, went on occasional dates, and wrote letters back and forth (there wasn’t email or texting!). I didn’t have to be guilted into reading those letters. I didn’t read them begrudgingly. I couldn’t wait to read them. I read them several times. I still have them in a box at my house. Every one of them!

And that is my prayer for myself in regards to God’s Word because I don’t always have that passion for Him...that is my prayer for you...help us to fall so in love with Jesus we can’t wait to read His Word. Don’t let me replace reading God’s word with that good book by that one author I love. Don’t let me replace it with a sentence or two read in passing. Don’t let me replace it with that worship CD with that great song on it.

I mean listen to this:
2 Peter 1:20-21, “...you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” This means God is actually speaking to us through the Words of Scripture.

Hebrews 4:12-13, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” This demonstrates the power of God’s Word to see into the reality of who we are, and what God wants to do in our lives.

Paul tells Timothy about all the trials that follow the person committed to following Jesus and then says in 2 Timothy 3:14-17, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

As the Church, Scripture must be the basis for all our teaching and ministry.

The third way a Revived Church seeks and find truth is...
We are committed to Right Doctrine

Theology is a tricky thing to talk about. After I was asked to preach at one church, the person said, “You don’t preach about theology and stuff do you?” Unfortunately he had learned the wrong thing about theology. Everyone who had ever spoken about theology to him had been boring, dry, and used big words he couldn’t understand.

That’s what I did to Lori after only a few short weeks of theology classes in college. I would come home, excited about the new theological concept I had learned, and her eyes would glaze over as I spoke excitedly about the ecclesiastical ramifications of a right orthodoxy in relationship to atonement and eschatology. I still, for the life of me, can’t understand why she didn’t find that discussion intriguing!

But something changed that...

One evening my professors and his wife came over for dinner. We talked about my being a youth pastor, about God, about being a Christian. Later in the discussion Lori said, “I just don’t understand theology. I can’t talk about it or anything.”

My professor said the most profound and encouraging thing anyone has said to my wife. He said, “Lori, we have been talking theology all night. You have talked about what you believe about God, the church, and being a Christian. Everyone talks about theology. They just don’t use the big words that we use in academia.”

That statement helped me realize that everyone is interested in theology. People everywhere are talking about their beliefs about God, life, salvation, and the Church. I was just using the wrong words.

But this is where things get hairy too. We all have a theology, but some theologies are better than others...Because we must start at the right place with theology. We must start our search for Truth with Jesus and with Scripture.

The issue really isn’t are we going to talk about theology...the issue is are we going to work toward a proper theology. Not that we will have the completely “right” theology, but we must seek to be biblical.

Paul understood the danger of bad theology. In 1 and 2 Timothy, Paul gives guidance to the young pastor Timothy. He warns, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

In order to combat this Paul encourages Timothy to do several things:

  1. Point out the false doctrines.
  2. Have nothing to do with godless myths and wives’ tales.
  3. Train to be godly.
  4. Command and teach.
  5. Set an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.
  6. Devote himself to public reading of Scripture, to preaching, and to teaching.
  7. Don’t neglect his spiritual gift.
  8. And then in verse 16 he says, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

All of Paul’s instructions are based around that last statement, “Watch your life and doctrine closely.”

The early church developed Creeds to guide them. There were some beliefs they could state clearly and absolutely...and some they could not. So they developed the Creeds...which acts like the boundary lines of a football field. They define the basic beliefs of being Christian, and as long as you play on that field, within those lines, the other beliefs are secondary.

As the Church, we must be seek to develop good theology.

Conclusion

You know, the Church that is seeking real Truth must keep these three in tension. Because if you get them out of whack bad things happen. Those who follow Jesus without a proper understanding of Scripture...make him over in their own image. Without proper doctrine...they lose their way. Those who emphasize right Biblical understanding or theology without holding on to Jesus become mean or overly impressed with their own knowledge.

Imagine what it would mean for us as the Church in Huber Heights if we took Truth seriously? If we sought after Jesus, read and studied God’s Word, and lived out of right doctrine...we could change Huber Heights and the world!

So our first priority is to seek God and live Christlike lives by following Jesus!

Scripture will be the foundation in our weekend gatherings, and our messages will be faithful to Scripture.

Within the next year we will establish Bible studies and classes to help us understand the Bible and theology better without becoming mean, unloving, or inward focused!

We will become a training and sending church raising up church planters and missionaries to extend God’s Kingdom both near and far.

Within two years all leaders will have read through the Bible...and within every three years we will continue to read through the Bible.

I want to plan an event where we will read God’s word out loud continuously all the way through. We will have people sign up to read, we will invite people to sit and listen, and we will read it out loud.

We will regularly resource people to spend time in God’s Word on a daily basis, and challenge them to read the Bible all the way through.

God blesses the reading of His Word. As you and I spend time in God’s Word we are transformed. We are changed. We are able to see God’s heart for this world, and it challenges us to take part.

I have a deeply theological reminder about the importance of God’s Word.


March 5, 2011

Why Study Theology?

Here is a great quote from C.S. Lewis
"Everyone has warned me not to tell you what I am going to tell you ... They all say "the ordinary reader does not want Theology; give him plain practical religion." I have rejected their advice. I do not think the ordinary reader is such a fool. Theology means "the science of God," and I think any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about him which are available. You are not children: why should you be treated like children?

In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.E, an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, "I've no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I'm a religious man too. I know there's a God. I've felt him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that's just why I don't believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about him. To anyone who's met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!"

Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real, to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from real waves to a bit of colored paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.

Now Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But the map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God­ experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you or I are likely to get on our own way are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion-all about feeling God in nature, and so on-is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map."