November 14, 2021
2 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
19 I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
20 The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
21 the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
I knew a Pastor who told me the following story. “I once had a church member come up to me really mad after a service. We had just tried a new song, one that our youth group was excited about. It praised G-d and had a great down beat and was guitar lead. And I had been excited because, it was so refreshing to see the youth really dive into worship. But after the service, this member came up to me mad. And started going on and on about how inappropriate the song was. How we should stick to the classics. And I was tempted to remind him that 200 years ago, Amazing Grace was a new song, but instead I simply said, “That’s okay, we weren’t worshipping you.”
Church isn’t about us. Yes, we get to learn and meet the Lord and grow in faith, but it’s called worship because we are worshipping G-d. Not our preferences. Now I think it would be easy to think, man thank G-d we aren’t like that! And I am thankful that this church embraces music diversity. But I think if we are honest with ourselves, we all think there is a “right way to do church.” We think, “If only they wouldn’t wear flip flops to church.”
If only we did more hymns.
If only we did more music with drums.
If only we did it like we used to!
If only we looked beyond ourselves to the moment at hand.
To the world before us.
To the risks we might take.
Do we spend so much time looking back that we aren’t looking forward?
Do we have new people in our midst but we think to ourselves, “but that’s where I sit.”
“Or that’s not how we do it here.”
I want to share with you a true story, as recorded in the book, the Jesus Revolution; How G-d Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn
“The hippies who plunged into the Pacific Ocean during that summer sunset in 1970 didn’t know they were in a revival. They didn’t know what a revival was. They were not acquainted with Christian vocabulary words like revival or salvation or sanctification…It was called the Jesus Revolution or the Jesus Movement. It swelled among young people…It was the largest public movement of the Holy Spirit in the United States since the celebrated revivals of the nineteenth century. National magazines wrote colorful feature stories about this mass spiritual phenomenon, as did newspapers like the New York Times. More people were baptized during the Jesus Revolution than in any time since people started keeping records. They were flower children, hippies, yippies, druggies, and square church kids. Teenagers who had run away from home got saved on the streets. Junkies got clean. Churches—the ones that would accept barefoot flower children sitting on their carpets and curling their bare toes in the communion cup racks—overflowed with new believers…Only G-d knows how many lives the Holy Spirit touched and transformed during that time.
In the first wave of the Jesus Revolution, the converts were mostly hippies who’d been searching for love, spiritual enlightenment, and freedom, and hadn’t found it in sex, drugs, and rock and roll. As these people—called “Jesus Freaks” by other hippies—started coming into the churches, there was a bit of cognitive distance, that psychological discomfort we all feel when we simultaneously hold two contradictory beliefs. To put it plainly, the church people knew they were supposed to love people different than themselves, but they found it much easier to do so in theory than in actuality.
Perhaps that’s because some of the church folk had mixed cultural values with their “Christian” perspective. Being a Christian somehow had nothing to do with conforming to cultural norms regarding hair length or conservative clothing or study footwear. So while it was great to love hippies as a concept, actually doing so became a challenge for some Christians when they encountered hippies wearing beads and bells strolling down the aisles of their sanctuaries and then plopping down right next to them in their pews. The churches that welcomed the hippies grew in grace and vigor; the ones that didn’t missed both the boat and the blessing…
Like the hippies, millennials- people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000- say they are hungry for authenticity, a sense of community, and real care for people who are needy and marginalized. Like the hippies, they’re a bit cynical about big business, big institutions, or organized religion. Bombarded by competing content online for most of their lives, they (or I could say we- given that I am a millennial) shy away from advertising, causes, or techniques that feel superficially targeted towards them. They gravitate toward “used-generated content” that feels like it came from a real person, not a brand.
Meanwhile, their phones ping with news alerts all the time, feeding a generalized anxiety about radical unrest, environmental sustainability, gender issues, long-range missiles, terrorism and a polarized political process full of haters. Issues like sex trafficking, genocide, starvation and natural disasters are on their screens and in their faces all the time…Today, 75% of young people who grew up in Christian homes and churches are now abandoning their faith as young adults. More than one-third of millennials says they are unaffiliated with any faith…A lot of them feel like “going to church” is irrelevant. They’re impatient with big churches that are more concerned about fellowship groups than helping the poor. The seeker-friendly megachurches of their parent’s generation are too slick and programmed; they want something more real, more radical, and more rugged.”
The good news is, of all the churches I have been in, this one is pretty good at being rugged. But we still have ways we can stretch.
In, Come Back Churches Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson write, “The wrong question is whether your church is ‘traditional’ or ‘contemporary’ and which is better. The real issue is whether your church is biblically faithful, acting as the presence of Christ in the community at large, able to relate Christ to people in culture, and is on mission. In short, is your church “missional?”….Missional churches are indigenous, taking root in the soil of their society and reflecting… Being indigenous is harder than it sounds, because almost all declining churches already have a culture. In most cases, the existing church culture is from a former era that is only meaningful to those in the church, not those in the community…Being missional means moving intentionally beyond our church preferences, making missional rather than preferential decisions….The most effective comeback churches will be those that intentionally think like missionaries in their context…When Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21), the mandate was not for a select group of cross-cultural missionaries. It was a commission to you, to me, and to our churches…It is worth the effort to go beyond personal preference and attractional methods to proclaim the gospel in our church services and outside the walls.”
I have a friend who is writing an article on the difference between living churches and dying churches. And so, they asked a bunch of Pastors, what a dying church looks like? And some of the answers that came back were “The Pastor expects the church staff to bring in people and aren’t inviting their friends or engaging the community.” Churches are more worried about pleasing the people who currently attend, than sharing about Jesus with people beyond the walls. Just wanting people to join the church to help us set up tables or help with financial giving, not because we want them to have a relationship with Christ. Or welcoming people, but not wanting to change anything to make them feel at home. Letting there be that awkward silence during passing of the peace or right after Church and not asking their name or offering to walk with them to coffee hour. Not being willing to place our desires before Jesus’ relationship with others.
I love that this church, went through the New Beginnings process and made the commitment to be an outward facing Church. A comment to place to check our priorities. To forget the old ways and make way for the new. I love that this Church is always looking for new ways to provide mission and outreach to the community. And I think there is still room for us to grow. How can we continue to grow? How can we, 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…So that we don’t focus on the former things or consider the things of old. For G-d is about to do new things, do we perceive it? Are we making way in the wilderness of our customs and ways to what G-d is doing? For G-d is forming people, people we might not know yet to declare G-d’s praises.