As a child, what brought out the worst in you? Hear about my experiences at http://resources.razorplanet.com/510796-5165/510796_1102_157513.mp3 or by subscribing to the “Maltby Christian Assembly” podcast on iTunes.com and listening to the July 31, 2011 message. Share your thoughts below.
I just finished one of the best books that I have read in a very long time. I would encourage everyone that I know to stop what they are doing right now and order, download, or purchase Kyle Idleman’s “Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus.”
Just to give you a small glimpse behind the challenge of this book, allow me to share with you a short overview of the author’s thoughts as well as the chapter that most impacted me. Idleman asks us to consider the definition of our relationship with Christ. What do we say is our proper response to Jesus and has that truly been our response. Are we really followers? Disciples? Have we really devoted our lives to his Cause? Or would we be a bit more honest in calling ourselves fans? We like what he has to say. We know he is right. We cheer him…from afar. But we are doing little in participating in all of what he is doing.
The greatest part of this book was the chapter on Matthew the Tax Collector. Idleman calls it “Anyone – An Open Invitation.” The Bible reads, “He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him” (Mark 2:13-14, ESV).
Idleman defines the role of the teacher and the disciple. The master and the slave. Within that conversation, he writes, “So the rabbis would take applications for followers. But that’s not the way rabbi Jesus went about getting followers. Instead of the followers applying, Jesus invited followers. This approach of going to someone and inviting him just wasn’t done A rabbi wouldn’t humble himself, or extend himself in that way. A rabbi wouldn’t risk rejection; a rabbi would do the rejecting. But Jesus takes the initiative. It would have been shocking enough if he had simply allowed Matthew to follow him, but Jesus actually extends the invitation. He says to Matthew, ‘Follow me.'”
Think about what all Christ has done for us. What all he has called us to. Are we doing it? Are we following?
This is how the prophecies of Jeremiah end? After all that he had said? After all that he did? The people STILL did not listen?
The Bible reads, “This is the number of the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive: in the seventh year, 3,023 Judeans; in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem 832 persons;30 in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Judeans 745 persons; all the persons were 4,600” (Jeremiah 52:28-30, ESV).
Make no mistake…sin destroys. Rebellion enslaves. Judah thought that they had it all under control. That they could cover all of their bases by making treaties with surrounding nations. They thought that they had extra protection by paying homage to other deities. It couldn’t hurt, could it? It absolutely would.
May this be a lesson to us as the church. Where have we taken the holiness of God for granted? Where have we made light of that which stands in direct contrast to our Creator? Where have we neglected the mission of knowing God, being known by him, and making him known to others?
What do we stand to lose? Israel lost a land and a leadership. They struggled to hold on to the Law. I pray that we as the church – as a church – will not have to go through the discipline that Judah had to in order to find restoration.
It seems to me that the church, from era to era and wing to wing, seems to gravitate from one extreme to another. Either we remove ourselves from the world so much so that we lose any influence that we should have had or we blend in so much that there is nothing left to influence. Why can’t we just find a way to share in God’s holiness and then actually share his holiness?
One of my all-time favorite communicators is Scotty Gibbons (http://scottygibbons.com/). He has spent the past eighteen years as youth pastor at James River in Springfield, MO. I have seen him share at various venues including a youth leadership conference and a youth conference. He just has such an uncanny way of sharing the gospel with authority that is neither conjured up or overbearing. He is meek in the fullest sense – a controlled strength.
I have read his previous works, “Carry On” and “Overflow.” This is just one more reason I was excited to look over his youth discipleship resource titled “First Things First.” Again, another example of a leader who makes a clear and compelling challenge to an emerging generation.
He writes, “In the end, it all comes down to love. If we love and care about those around us, we will want to do what is best for them. We’ll want to say the things that would make them desire a relationship with God because it’s the best thing that could ever happen to them. We’ll want to believe the best about them rather than spreading gossip, because love always hopes for the best. When we have a heart of love, our words will reflect that. It’s not fitting for us as followers of Christ and recipients of His righteousness to speak in a way that is more suited to the world” (69-70).
The Bible reads, “With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9-10, ESV).
My hope is that we will, sooner than later, be able to have him as our keynote speaker at the Evoke-West Student Leadership Conference. I also hope that there comes an opportunity to invite him to our church at Maltby. Our church would catch his integrity and influence from the beginning. Gibbons is a person worth following. He has a voice I want my students to hear.
Tonight our student ministry continued our summer series titled “Merge at the Movies: Finding Faith in Film” by having one of our outgoing interns, Derrick Lovatt, take a look at “The Green Lantern.”
Lovatt compared the ring to the gifts that God has entrusted us with. There is a quote from the movie that reads, “The ring, it chose you. Take it… place the ring on the lantern… place the ring, speak the oath… great honor… responsibility.” Hal Jordan seems to have everything that he needs to do everything that he was chosen to do…except for the will to actually do those things. This is his choice in the matter.
The Apostle Paul writes, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:3-8, ESV).
Lovatt challenged the students to consider that “there is a big difference between something that you don’t like and something that you are afraid to try.” We are all passionate about something. We are all good at something. What is it? Why is it? And how can we use it for the Cause of Christ and not just for our own gain?
Nothing frustrates me more that a self-professed follower of Christ who claims (or acts) as if they do not need the church. They are dead-wrong. They need the church. And the church needs them. God created us for community – to know him, to know others, and to make him know to others. The church is far from perfect – but we are called to bring change (and be changed) from within rather than without.
Who are we to think that we don’t need anyone else? Who are we to think that we are above other believers? That our gifts are sufficient? That we have everything we need to follow Christ? Show me a disciple in Scripture who did it on their own? Show me a missionary in Acts who traveled all by his lonesome? Show me a time that the Apostle Paul wrote to a person who did life in isolation? Every letter was about community. It was messy. But it was community nonetheless.
A local church community will bring things out of us – both good and bad – that need to be brought out. Our gifts are not for ourselves but for God’s glory and to be used for the benefit of others. We have a responsibility. We need relationships.
I am becoming my father. The things I say. The way I think. How is it that what we fight so hard not to become is exactly what we do become? And my father is a great human being. Special, in fact. But there is something inherent in all of us to want to forge out our own path. To not say the things that drove us crazy while we were growing up. To not have to admit…that he was right and that I was wrong. To have to suck it up and say, “He knew more than I did then.”
And this is why I think that church planters and emerging leaders need to be cautiously optimistic (or optimistically cautious). I love the fact that we are the first to recognize that our culture has dramatically changed and continues to change. And that so much of we did or why we did things yesterday might not necessarily be the best fit for the church of today. But I would also say, there might come a day where we surprise ourselves. As churches hit ten years old, fifteen years old, twenty years old…we might have those moments where we have to step back and say, “So that is why they used to do it like that!” Not that we have to go back…but that we now better understand where they were coming from.
The Bible reads, “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:6-7, ESV).
I am all for tearing down fences. But I also want to first know why the fence was placed there to begin with. I want to do things differently. But I want to thank those and respect those leaders who do have done things differently than me. I understand that we are where we – both good and bad – because of those who have gone before us. And that the next generation will most likely treat us just as we have treated those previous to us.
That being said, I also understand how quickly we come to believe that we do know everything. That those who are younger than us have very little to bring to the table. This is just one more reason why I believe so strongly that new churches MUST plant new churches continiousally and constantly. When and if I were to plant…that one church would have to only be the beginning. I believe that because I understand that the original group of people will eventually be tempted to slip into their own routines. New ways will become THE way. So out of the first two years needs to come a second site. By the fifth year there needs to be two additional PLANTS. By the seventh – at least two more. And that does not include the additional gatherings that should be added for the sake of time slots, styles, and languages.
Church multiplication should be messy. We need the parent who has wisdom but is often far too caution. We also need the teenager who knows way more than they really know and is willing to prove it. Family.
I just finished Todd Burpo’s “Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.” I probably would not have read it had it not been for a student who gave me a copy. I am excited anytime a student is exploring their faith to the point of actually being proactive in reading something (especially when it is outside of school and during the summer break). Not only that, but it is no secret that this book happens to be all the rage in Christian circles – and even as a rare crossover into the mainstream charts. As a leader, I believe it is important to keep up on what people in our churches are reading – to know what they are interested in, what they are hearing, and what a proper and educated response should be. Though I have learned from other popular topics (i.e. The Da Vinci Code, The Shack, and Love Wins) that this too will pass – it is popular in the present, nonetheless.
First, allow me to preface this blog by saying that, by no means, do I wish to criticize anyone’s love for this particular book. I can see how someone who has recently or suddenly lost a loved one, would absolutely gravitate to and find comfort in a book such as this. I understand that this book could also very well be the beginning for someone to begin a conversation with a non-believer about death, suffering, etc. I am not against this book. But I am concerned.
Why are we apt to take more stock in a testimony by a four year old boy than we are in the Spirit-inspired Scriptures? Do we need another book to confirm what we are already are told in the Bible by various authors from various time periods? And why would this book (or any other book) be passed around with more confidence than God’s Word?
The Bible reads, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4, ESV).
Like I said before, I take no issue with someone who reads this book and finds a small bit of peace in the process. What I have a problem with is the individual who becomes infatuated with works such as this and make such ideas next-to-gospel.
And to pastors, teachers, and other leaders…may this be a reminder to us all that many people who make up our churches, whether we believe it or not, wish to be lifelong-learners. They are teachable. They do want to listen. To follow. So are you being intentional in equipping them? Are you telling them what you are reading? Are you sharing with them a list of books that, though not on any bestseller list, will point them to the Scripture? Better yet, will you assist them in better studying and applying Scripture?
There is room for “feel-good” teaching. But there is also a great need for “do good” teaching. Are we reading that which challenges us? Changes us? Angers us? Compels us? Sharpens us? Shapes us? Read.