Resurrection Family Values

I’m very excited to be kicking off a sermon series this Sunday.  This will be the first sermon series we’ve ever done at Church of the Resurrection.  Usually we follow the lectionary which assigns the readings for each Sunday.  During the first half of the church year we follow the life of Jesus Christ from the anticipation of his birth (and return) during Advent, through the Christmas season, into the season after Epiphany where we see the manifestations of Jesus as the Christ.  We then move into Lent where we spend 40 days in preparation to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  This 40 day season of preparation for Easter is followed by 50 days of celebrating the resurrection of our Lord.  We are still in this season. In his resurrection, as I say during our liturgy, he broke the bonds of death, trampling Hell and Satan under his feet.

So I generally like to follow the lectionary because it draws us near to Christ.  It draws us near to Christ and near to our brothers and sisters throughout the world who are encountering the same Bible readings as us. There is a beauty in walking through the Word of God as a global body of believers.  So why are we straying from that during this season?

This Sunday will kick off a sermon series on our values as a church.  This will be an opportunity for me to preach about who we are as a people.  Our values aren’t statements that have been written up only to be placed in a file somewhere.  They’re statements that embody who we are as a body.  So, what are our values as a church?  Well, you can find them here, but I’ll save you a click.  Our values are:

·     Finding our identity in Christ
·     Living with a new purpose in Christ
·     Seeking renewal in our community
·     The intentional nurturing of children
·     Practicing hospitality

 So as we explore each of these values I hope I can help to cultivate these values in you as we are transformed from glory into glory.  

Preparing to Prepare

We at Church of the Resurrection are people who are seeking to draw near to Jesus.  One of the ways we do this is by uniting our story with his story through the observation of the church calendar.  We are currently in the season after Epiphany, and during this season we look at some of the manifestations of Christ’s divinity.  We behold his glory in his work here on earth in his changing of water into wine, and in his fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. 

Ash Wednesday is in just one month, which means Lent is fast-approaching.  Even in this season in which we see the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ the specter of his coming death looms large.  This should be no surprise to anyone who has read the Old Testament prophecies of the suffering servant or to anyone who has read the words of Christ in the gospels.  Christ’s glory is in suffering and death.

We have the benefit of reading the whole Bible unlike the disciples who were shocked and offended at the idea that Jesus would lay his life down.  I heard something last week that I hadn’t thought of.  I have always used Ash Wednesday as an opportunity to kick off Lent, so to speak.  But I heard it suggested that Ash Wednesday is way too late.

So here I am, one month away from Lent, broaching the topic of Lent.  And I’m only going to do that.  I’m going to raise the topic of Lent.  Yes, Lent is a season of fasting and preparation, and I am calling us to a season of preparation for the season of preparation.  Weird?  Maybe.

But I’ll ask you this.  What is your plan to draw near to Jesus this Lent?  What is keeping you from drawing near to Jesus?  Is there something you need to lay at the feet of Jesus?  Is there a secret sin in your life that you need to lay at his feet?  What is something you can give up that will draw you to him?  If you give up chocolate will you really run to him when you get the urge for it?  Is there a devotional habit you can pick up during this season?

Let’s use the next month to pray to the Lord about what he is calling us to this Lent.  How can we prepare for this season?  How can we use it to draw near to the Lord?

How has planting a church affected my life?

So, it’s been a while since I posted to the blog.  It’s about time to add another post.  I just read through my last post and saw that I promised to “talk about refining our process of reaching others with the gospel.”  I guess I’ll be faithful to my word and do that.

I think one of the biggest barriers to evangelism is the old way of thinking that reduces the work of evangelism to a gospel presentation followed by a sinner’s prayer.  Don’t stop reading.  I’m not crazy.  I do believe that a gospel presentation is absolutely necessary for someone to become a Christian.  Otherwise, what are they responding to?  What are they putting their faith in?  My point is that there are often many steps necessary to win someone to Christ before they hear and believe the good news that through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus we can be called children of God and are heirs of his eternal kingdom. 

Imagine approaching someone in a coffee shop, interrupting their peaceful ingestion of caffeine, and telling them that Jesus died for their sins.  Would you expect a positive reaction?  Of course not.  And this is why many people don’t feel equipped to do the work of evangelism.  People generally don’t respond to personal appeals like this outside of a relationship.  They probably are thinking, “Who are you to tell me about this Jesus?  You don’t know me.”  But what if we considered any trust-building or bridge-building between you, a believer, and any unbeliever to be doing the work of evangelism?  What if we considered the formation of relationships with non-believers to be the beginning of evangelism?  What if we started to see building healthy relationships with non-believers as an integral part of moving them toward a relationship with Christ?

I think we need to assume that those who don’t believe have at least some hostility toward Christianity.  At the very least they’re indifferent.  They have no interest and wonder why anyone would be interested in Jesus.  How do we take Jesus into a hostile and indifferent world?  We do so by building relationships.  We do so by living really intentionally.  Even strategically.

I’ve changed my habits so that I can build relationships with those around me.  I’ve started to be strategic about where I shop so I run into the same employees.  When I eat at a restaurant, I ask my server if there’s anything going on in his or her life that I can pray about.  I’m going to pray anyway!  Why not include them in my prayer?  And the area I need the most help in is reaching out in my neighborhood.  We need to break the idea of seeing our home as our refuge.  Jesus is our refuge.  We need to spend our time and home welcoming others into it.  We need to spend more time in our front yard rather than our backyard.  Last fall I bought a fire pit to drag into my driveway on Fridays to connect with people in the neighborhood.  We’ll see what fruit this will bear. 

Here’s the reality.  When we encounter people we always encounter them as people with whom God has started a conversation.  Let’s continue that conversation.  Let’s do it relationally.  Let’s do it lovingly.  Let’s do it as people whose lives have been changed by God.  Let’s share the good news, one relationship at a time.


What is church planting and why would anyone want to plant a new church?

Part II:

In the previous entry I talked about how our discipleship calls us to make disciples.  And as daunting as this sounds, when we set out to make disciples we are partnering with God.  So what does this have to do with church planting?  Everything!  We are planting a church not because there is something wrong with each of the hundreds of churches in Sioux Falls.  We are planting a church because new churches have proven to be highly effective at reaching un-churched people for the sake of Christ.  Sioux Falls doesn’t need one new church; it needs dozens of new churches.  One local ministry estimated that there are at least 100,000 un-churched people in the city of Sioux Falls.  These are our neighbors, our co-workers, our cashiers, our servers, our baristas, and our friends.  And God is calling us to reach them with the good news of new life in Christ. 

In my next post I will begin to talk about refining our process of reaching out to others with the gospel.  While I think even the newest convert is capable (and called) to reach others with the gospel, I do think there are ways we can each grow as disciple-makers.  But for today I want to focus more on the task of church planting.  Not all pastors are called to church planting.  It is a particular call, and churches examine potential planters closely because they want them to succeed.  I don’t want to challenge you to go plant a church.  What I do want to ask you today is whether you feel called to assist in the task of church planting.  I’m not asking for the sake of the church I am planting but for the sake of church planting in general.  As I said we need dozens of new churches in Sioux Falls and beyond, and just as much as these churches need good leadership, they need people like you to lend your assistance to them. 

A while back I read the book Sticky Faith.  Most Christian parents want their children to stick with the faith they are raised with.  But how?  How do we nurture a faith that sticks?  One researcher estimated that something like 80 percent of Christians leave the faith in college.  Whatever the number, the attrition rate is appalling.  Two of the elements the authors of Sticky Faith pointed to (that led to children sticking with their faith) were 1) it is clear to the children that a parent’s faith matters to them in their day-to-day life and 2) children are given opportunities to play a role in church.

The reason I raise these two elements is that by joining a church plant, you are not only blessing a missionary endeavor that makes new disciples, you are actively showing your children how much your faith means to you.  You are showing that your faith is so important you are leaving your comfort zone to help take the gospel to the least, the last, and the lost.  And in church plants children have an opportunity to put their faith into action and participate in the work of the church. 

For the sake of brevity I’ll sum up by saying this: the work of church planting is work, but it is important, impactful, and satisfying work.  I pray that you will prayerfully consider how you are called to support the work of church planting in your life.


What is church planting and why would anyone want to plant a new church?

Let me preface my comments by saying I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being a disciple of Jesus.  I mean more than usual.  I’ve been visiting a friend’s discipleship group (and shout-out to discipleship ministry Primary for their work in this area) for the past three weeks finding out what it’s all about.  What’s different about their discipleship group is its missional orientation.  Too often we think of our own discipleship as learning more about the God who is revealed in Scripture.  Far be it for me to dissuade anyone from reading their Bible more, but there is much more to our own discipleship than building ourselves up as followers of Jesus.  Our own discipleship ought to be just as much concerned with making disciples as it is with our own growth in Jesus.  After all, if we want to be obedient to Jesus that necessarily entails obeying his command to “make disciples of all nations” in Matthew 28.

But, I often hear people say, “I don’t have the right gifts for that.”  Maybe, but if you know Jesus you have everything you need.  You’re not a salesman who must go on a company retreat to get the requisite training.  If you know Jesus you are ready to make disciples.  When we seek to make disciples we are partnering with God himself.  What better partner can there be?  Anytime we encounter someone who doesn’t know Jesus we can be assured that God has already started a conversation with them.  We’re just continuing a conversation God has started. 

Consider the Samaritan woman Jesus meets at a well (John 4).  She has been called the first missionary by some because she left Jesus and immediately returned to town to tell her neighbors about Jesus.  She didn’t have the “right words.”  She hadn’t been to a single Christian church service.  All she knew is that she had met “the Christ.”

Friends, we have been empowered to take this good news of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.  You don’t need a degree in theology or a sophisticated presentation.  You have everything you need.  I want to be clear: I definitely think there are ways we can grow as disciple-makers, but we don’t need to wait until we are a Level-10 Christian to start the task of making disciples.*

What does this have to do with church planting?  I guess you’ll have to read the next post to find out. 

- Christopher

*There are no “Level-10” Christians.  There are no levels at all.