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Archive for June, 2016

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 322

  1. “I have the power…” (John 19:10).

Pilate’s frustration with a silent Jesus boils over into an incredible but true interchange. The Roman governor threatens with his power to “free you or crucify you” and Jesus responds by saying that such power comes from above. Both are true. In fact, every one of us has been given a similar power. God, in wisdom and by grace, has given each of the multiplied billions of His creation the choice of what to do with Jesus. That power from above establishes and sets the course for our lives. We have been given this remarkable opportunity of self-determination and with it can either embrace or reject God himself. So go ahead, Pilate, make your call. We all have to.

 

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 321

  1. “When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid (John 19:8).

Who might Jesus be? That’s the suddenly uncomfortable thought that pierces Pilate’s mind when he hears what Jesus claimed to be. Is He a god? Now this unusual prisoner has become a completely different issue. The issue before Pilate is no longer dispensing with an irritation or intrusion to his day. There’s no denying what he felt when Jesus responded to his questions. There’s no pretending that his own wife’s nightmares aren’t pounding in the mental background. Who is this and what if He is what He says? What nightmare awaits Pilate’s men if they lift their hands against Him? While Pilate and his soldiers will survive the day, little does he know of the everlasting impact of his next step.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 320

  1. “Hail king of the Jews” and they struck him in the face (John 19:3).

This is the Son of God–a reality hidden from the eyes of the random soldiers who imagine their superiority. They mocked Him and they struck Him. As the advances of social media bring news of worldwide persecution of Christians and as those persecutions seem to be drawing closer to our shores, the question many a church kid has wrestled with in the safety of freedom’s arms seems about to be asked. What would I do if they threatened me? They will. They did and they will. As encounters with the “they” of persecution move nearer to our reality, we want to pull back and reject their inequity. But nothing could have felt more unfair than what John apparently saw in this biblical moment. That’s the Son of God…and they struck Him. What seems right or fair never penetrated that place. And likely it won’t govern future moments for Jesus’ people.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 319

  1. “Give us Barabbas!” (John 18:40)

He’s the usual choice. When opting between Jesus and the guy we think can get us what we want, we take the Barabbas guy. When choosing between what is we know is right or what we think is easy, easy usually wins. Barabbas is the aggressive path. He’s the take action guy. He’s the one that best represents what we want, and looks like our best path of getting it. Jesus is surely the better choice, most would even say the proper one. But Jesus doesn’t want what I want, He wants me to want for others. He doesn’t take what He wants, but gives ‘til it hurts. In the long run, most of us know that Jesus is the better choice, but in the moment and for right now, well…

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

10 Signs of an Inward-Focused Church

June 13, 2016 1 comment

For the past several years, I’ve been a part of a team that crisscrosses the nation to work with local churches–hundreds of them. At the same time, I spend a chunk of my summers poring over church attendance and ministry data, identifying metrics to measure health and real effectiveness, and looking for clues to what can drive the oft-elusive, but greatly-prioritized goal of growth.

Now, be assured that long ago I set aside the idea that health and growth are twin sisters, seemingly always together (and often dressed alike). There’s ample evidence proving that health and growth aren’t that close–maybe they’re cousins who see each other a few times a year, but can otherwise live two very different lives. There are many growing churches that aren’t healthy. We should get that fairly easily since no one argues that the biggest people are the healthiest!

But the reverse is also true, though harder for us to grasp. There are, in fact, healthy churches that aren’t growing numerically. We struggle here since we believe that healthy things grow naturally, but we must keep in mind that growth can occur in ways other than attendance. Anyway…that’s for another day and time (and blog entry).

Amidst all this study, one thing we have learned for certain is that declining churches consistently prove to be inward-focused churches. In fact, growing churches that are about to plateau often do so because inward focus has taken root within. When we lose track of the “other-focus” of Jesus’ ideal, we give into our personal consumerism and soon the unhealthy symptoms begin.

So how do you know if you’re local church is inward focused? Watch for these signs:

  1. You attend church each weekend wondering what you’ll get rather than considering what you’ll give.
  2. You know how to celebrate your faith but you lack confidence to share it.
  3. The people of your church guard their preferences and expect new people to adapt to the established ways.
  4. Congregation members aren’t friendly to Sunday guests (that’s a Greeter’s job).
  5. Pastor spends 90% of his time caring for/ministering to the existing congregation (and he/she is exhausted).
  6. Your congregation members are more likely to ask “What about me?” than “What about them?”
  7. Less than 10% of your congregation brought a friend to your church last year.
  8. Talk of serving Jesus focuses primarily on serving at church on Sundays rather than ways to serve Him Monday thru Saturday in the community.
  9. Your church is active, but your city doesn’t know (or care about) what you’re doing.
  10. Your local church’s most powerful day of the week is Sunday (rather than any other day of the week when your congregation is dispersed into your community).

If any of these (or even several) sound familiar, you’re local church may be on an unhealthy path. Christ designed His Church to be about “Him and Them.” When we are about “Him” in worship and “Them” in ministry, then He takes care of us. And only then can we be the healthy church He longs to establish in our community.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 318

  1. “What is truth?” (John 18:38).

Pilate’s apparent irritation with the idea of truth’s existence likely underscores his own weariness with his role in life more than any characterization of the philosophical climate of the day. He’s a middleman between two groups that despise each other. The Emperor, on one hand, views himself as benevolent to those he conquers and likely has little patience for the apparent ingratitude of the Jews. On the other side, the Jews hate being ruled by one they view as godless. They despise Rome and only engage Pilate when they must, and when they want to manipulate him for their own purposes. Against this backdrop, his question reveals a melancholy toward daily life. “What is truth?’ doesn’t seek an answer, but shows a man who gave up on finding truth some time ago. It seems sad that Pilate’s weariness with his life caused him to misidentify the One before him. The meaning he lacked could have been found, if he had only heard what Jesus is saying to him in this moment.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 317

  1. “I came into the world to testify to the truth” (John 18:37).

To Pilate, Jesus describes His mission a bit differently than we might expect. He came for truth–an idea that encompasses so many possibilities. He came to bring the truth about the Father, revealing Him and His intent in clear and unsuspected ways. He came to bring the truth about life, how God desires we live it and the ethic of love that ought drive us. He came to bring the truth about the Law, how it was designed to help shape our hearts, not just our behaviors. He came to bring the truth of God’s kingdom, it’s true nature and the nature of those who would enter. He came to bring the truth, and those who refuse to respond to the truth found in themselves a desire to silence Him. And that is why He is standing before you, Pilate.