Archive

Posts Tagged ‘church growth’

We are Family

June 5, 2016 1 comment

Sister SledgeMost people who have been on the earth for a long time would have a song going through their head after reading the title of this post. It was a popular tune by Sister Sledge that worked its way up the charts back in ’79. “We are Family ” was a heartfelt anthem in honour of family, slap bass and flowy pants. If this doesn’t ring a bell, just click the link and I’ll see you back here in a few minutes…  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNAQ8LLptUo  

The concept of family resonates with all of us, either because of its presence – or its absence – in our lives, both of which are felt deeply. For those who have been raised in a healthy family, there is generally something deeply healthy about them, and for those who have been raised without one, a deep longing for family love and belonging is apparent. It seems that God has wired us for family. We need it.

With this in mind, it is not surprising that Churches are families. That’s just the way it is. If someone sets out to plant a Church, what springs up should be a family. If someone sets out to build up a Church, they should be building in a way that fosters family.

The early Church understood this. Right from the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit filled the Church, their identity as a spiritual family emerged for all to see, and they retained that practical “family-ness” even though they numbered in the thousands. In Acts 2:44-47 Luke writes, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people…”

So along with all of the other manifestations of the Holy Spirit, it seems that the early Church manifested spiritual family in a way that caused the world around them to take note.

These days, it is even more crucial for the Church to manifest our identity as a family. We live in a society that has lost a clear sense of what family actually is, and is in deep need of the real thing. What better place to find family than in the Family of God?

But as the Church, are we building family? Depending on how we build, instead of a Church we could actually be building a ministry, or a personal following, or a program, or a public service, or a show, or a school, and entirely miss the critical defining quality of Church – spiritual family.

Why would any Church leave this quality out? That one is unfortunately easy to answer. It’s because building a spiritual family is costly. It costs us to get to know one another enough to hurt, and get hurt. It costs us to be accountable to one another. It costs us to depend, and to be dependable. And so, many individual believers aren’t looking for a family, and many Churches aren’t looking to build one. Let’s face it: it’s easier for everyone to paddle on the surface than to go deeper.

Easier yes, but not better.

When my wife Karen and I were called to plant this Church called West End Christian Community almost 20 years ago, we had clear instruction from the Lord that we were to build a spiritual family. It hasn’t been easy; investing in the lives of others never is. But our testimony is that our lives have been immeasurably enriched by walking in meaningful fellowship with others, sharing in their joys and sorrows. And best of all, it’s a two-way street. It was only a few days ago that an emergency in our own family left us reeling. We were so grateful for our brothers and sisters in Christ, whom we could contact and share our burdens with, and who would pray along with us to our Father in heaven. We know that this is what the Lord has called His Church to be, and we know that we are the better for it.

So, brothers and sisters in Christ, when it comes to building God’s Church, let us not settle for anything less than spiritual family, for that is what we are – family.

Cue the slap bass.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob

Advertisements

What did you get?

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment

I have to admit that when I was in school, I was a mark-comparer. I generally got good marks, but that wasn’t enough. No sir. No matter how good my marks were, they were only actually good if they were better than the marks that my chief rivals (read: friends) got. Of course, they were as much into this as I was, so after we would get a test back, we would have the “what did you get?” conversation.

“What did you get?”

“Well, what did you get?”

“I asked you first”

“I got an A”

“Oh (smiling), I got an A+”

“Did you study?”

“Naw” (not true)

“Me neither” (also not true)

 In the book of Revelation, chapters two and three, Jesus has John send a letter to each of seven Churches in Asia. Each letter was basically the Lord’s evaluation of how each Church was doing, and some did well while others didn’t do so hot. These seven letters circulated together to all the Churches along with the rest of the book of Revelation, placing each fellowship in the unique position of being able to look at the test scores of the other Churches, and compare marks.

As a long time mark-comparer, I can sympathize with the leaders of the Church at Laodicea. As far as they were concerned, they had done really well for themselves. Their fellowship was rich and popular – a really “happening” Church, as we would call it today – and as they received the book of Revelation and began to read it, they must have been looking forward to getting their A+ from the Lord. I can imagine their sympathy for that little Church at Smyrna, whose test scores were posted second after Ephesus. Ephesus got a real dressing down and a stern warning to repent. But poor Smyrna! It didn’t seem like the Lord had the heart to criticize them for the weakness they probably brought on themselves. Jesus even condescended to say, “I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich.” Rich. That was nice of the Lord to give them pity marks, even if the word “rich” did seem a little too much, even for Jesus. And I can almost feel the pride swell in the leaders of the Church at Laodicea as they read through the report cards of the other Churches, just knowing that they were the last ones on the list because they would get the highest marks from the Lord.

All of which made the blow, when it came, feel all the more devastating.

“I know your deeds (Nice! He must have seen our website!), that you are neither cold nor hot. (Is He talking about the air conditioning in the sanctuary?) I wish you were either one or the other! (What’s He talking about? Do we need a new thermostat?) So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (I’m not sure that’s positive…)  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ (Ah, back on track. Self sufficiency. That’s a good thing. Here comes our A+) But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”(Did we get the wrong letter?)

The Lord continues to humble them by stating, in effect, that the Laodicean Church had locked Him out of their building, and that it would be a good idea for them to let Him in, so that they could begin to recover from their desperate state of poverty and affliction.

Poverty and affliction? Wasn’t that Smyrna? Actually, that was the rich Church. Laodicea – the ones who were rich and needed nothing – that was the poor Church. From this apparent paradox, it seems clear that Jesus uses a different set of tools than we do to measure our success as the Church. Our measure looks at the outward appearance. His involves the heart. Our measure records the height of fame. His plumbs the depths of character. Our measure gauges ease. His notes perseverance. Our measure is short-sighted. His is far-reaching. In other words, Jesus tends to look at the important things, and we don’t. And it’s not like the Lord has hidden from us what He values. The Bible is an illuminating resource in that regard. I think the problem isn’t that we don’t know what’s truly important or what’s best for us, but that we don’t like it. It’s kind of like carrots versus candy.

One of the most frightening things about that poor Church – Laodicea – is that they sincerely thought they were doing great. By the world’s standards, they were extremely successful and popular – a credit to their religion. And yet, the opposite was true. They were failing. It took the Lord’s stern, yet loving, rebuke to wake them up and prevent them from building a Church that, although it looked really good, really amounted to nothing. And all this was because they simply mistook what they thought was important for what Jesus thought was important.

As the Church, and as individual followers of Jesus, it is crucial that we don’t make that mistake. It’s the difference between a rich Church and a poor Church, a rich life and a poor life. And since we only have the one life, I’ll take the carrots.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob (www.weccwinnipeg.ca)

Small

June 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Sometimes we feel so small…father__baby_hands.jpg

That’s because we are. Even though we know it’s true that the Lord knows the number of hairs on our head (the angel in charge of counting mine, fortunately for him, is getting less work these days), and that He knew us as He formed us in our mother’s womb, that doesn’t make us any bigger. It just means God likes us. We’re small. We think small, we see small, we act small. The truth is, in light of eternity, we don’t know very much, we haven’t seen very much, and we haven’t experienced very much. If we put that together with what must be our annoying habit of thinking we’re big, it’s no wonder the Lord reminds us in Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

It’s good to come to terms with being small. For starters, it’s what we are, and it’s always good to have a clear sense of reality. Knowing that we’re small also keeps us humble, which is a good way to relate to our God, and to others.

Certainly the Lord is comfortable with big. The universe would be a good example. But it seems there’s something He likes about small. He likes us, right? He especially likes children, who are small and know it. He also created a lot of small things, like paramecia. We didn’t even know about them until God gave Leeuwenhoek the idea for the microscope.

Jesus started His Church small. Him and 12 others. In fact it didn’t seem too important to the Lord to have big crowds following Him. He actually did at one point, and so He preached a hard sermon and most of them left, because crowds don’t necessarily make the Kingdom big (see John 6:22-71). Then they were small again. Jesus made it clear that His Kingdom would get big, but it would need to start small, because small is not just something you tolerate while you are waiting to be big. Lots of big things happen when you’re small, and it’s important not to miss them. Here are some of the punch lines of Jesus’ teaching about small:

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” – Luke 16:10

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” – Matt. 25:23

So small is important.

FireLight is a small Church. In some ways, it would be nice to be bigger. Crowds carry their own kind of energy. But then again, so do families. We’re a pretty small crowd, but we’re a pretty big family. It’s in my heart and my prayers that we would see an increase – that’s natural, because we want to see more people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and we want to see more people walking out their faith in meaningful fellowship. And I believe that’s what the Lord wants for us too, so big is coming. But what I hope is that we would not overlook small. God doesn’t. He has many important things for us to learn in these days, things that we can only learn when we come to terms with small.

So let’s embrace small. It’s what we are, and it’s where the Lord has us until He makes us bigger. Let’s cultivate what needs to be cultivated in these days of small things – humbleness, faithfulness and family. We’ll need these for big later on.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob (www.weccwinnipeg.ca)