As we continue our Mark series this summer, recently I addressed the story of the rich young man…or as some call it…the rich young ruler. This story has always intrigued me, because Jesus says some things that stretch my mind.
…was not just about me?
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
Instead of going to be encouraged…we went to encourage others…
Instead of hoping to sing my favorite song…we hoped to sing “their” favorite song…
Instead of looking to be served…we intentionally served others…
Instead of waiting to be welcomed…we welcomed others first…
Instead of asking to be prayed for…we sought to pray for others…
Instead of going to receive a blessing…we went to be a blessing…
What difference would it make in our church experience?
Of course, church is ultimately not about either of us…it’s about Jesus…
But, church is also where people who want to make much of Jesus gather to grow, fellowship and worship Jesus…
So, I wonder how our church experience would be made different, if we approached it considering the interest of others…
What do you think?
This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD Exodus 7:17
and then you will know that I am the LORD. 1 Kings 20:13
And they will know that I am the LORD… Ezekiel 6:13
Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD… Joel 2:27
I did some reading this week…
It seems God likes to make Himself known…
Throughout the Old Testament, God did thing that caused people know to know He is the Lord…
I don’t find that same phrase in the New Testament…
I do read this:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8
It makes me wonder..
What am I doing…what are you doing?
In our life…
In our city…
In our church…
In our community…
In our world…
That’s showing people He is the Lord…
In my LAST POST, I introduced the concept of a discipling culture being high invitation and high challenge. I believe this is the example Jesus set for us. (Read the previous post for further explanation.) In John 8, for example, Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “He who is without sin cast the first stone” and “Neither do I condemn you.” That’s high invitation. Who doesn’t want to hear that? Jesus also said, however, “go and sin no more”. That’s high challenge. Who can live up to that?
One way this concept has shaped my teaching is to strive for every message to be high invitation, but also high challenge. I want my messages to be easy to listen to and enjoyable, helpful and applicable; even funny at moments (high invitation), but I also want each message to encourage disciplined personal growth and discipleship; helping people identify areas of their life where they need to change or improve to be more like Christ. (high challenge).
Please understand, I’m not an expert at this, nor do I hit a home run every week, but it’s a goal that I believe is making me better as I strive to meet it.
Some may wonder: How do you know if you’re reaching your target?
Well, I’ve been thinking about this for several months and I’m not sure that I can always know. It’s obviously very subjective. One thing I have started thinking through, however, and this is a developing concept for me, is that I can often evaluate the tension of being high invitation and high challenge by examining the feedback I receive from messages.
Here’s what I mean:
When a message is especially high invitation, I’ll receive lots of positive feedback…usually very public. People say “great sermon” in the hallway on the way out of the building, they post on my Facebook or they tell Cheryl how much they “enjoyed” my message. I love and need this type of feedback, because it encourages me.
When a message is high invitation AND high challenge, I’ll equally receive an increased amount of feedback…but some of it will be very private. I’ve learned that people seldom go “public” with the heart-wrenching stories of confession…at least at first. Let me be clear that I believe the ultimate goal of teaching is to point people to Christ and encourage them to be like Him. When I do this with equally high invitation and challenge, not only will I get public recognition, I’ll also get emails, whispers in the hall, or hear about it weeks later in a private setting. I’ll hear stories of repeated sins, struggles in a marriage, or hidden pain in a person’s life.
I developed a phrase I use to help me think through the effectiveness of a message in this area of high invitation/high challenge:
Personal Recognition vs. Private Correspondence
When a message is both high invitation and high challenge, it appears I am more likely to receive both types of feedback. Obviously, some weeks there will be more feedback than other weeks and I never preach seeking either type feedback. Some topics are more likely to produce private correspondence. I also know that just because I don’t receive feedback one week doesn’t mean I didn’t offer a challenging message. When I am receiving this private correspondence, however, in addition to the personal recognition, it seems more obvious to me that my messages are stirring people’s hearts to action and life change. (high challenge)
Does this make sense? This is one of those concepts that’s clear for me to think about than it is for me to write about or describe. I expect some push back about this topic and I welcome it. I just know it has been helpful for me to consider this issue as I have evaluated my teaching over the last few months. Feel free to dialogue with me about this concept of personal recognition versus private correspondence.
Last year at Catalyst Conference, I attended a breakout with 3DM, a ministry which helps pastors and churches think about the importance and future of discipleship. I had participated in a pilot coaching program Catalyst was conducting and this breakout talked about some of that experience.
The one thing which impacted me most was a slide that was shown. I don’t have a copy of it. I captured one with my phone, but it’s quality is not good enough to share here and I can’t seem to find another, so I recreated the concept in the picture here. (I know what you’re thinking…I’m an artist…right? ) Anyway, this one paradigm shaper has impacted my teaching and church leadership as much as anything in recent years.
You can see the diagram, but in case it isn’t clear, here are some explanations:
Invitation - This refers to the atmosphere and degree of welcoming a church or an individual message provides. Do people enjoy being there? Do they want to come back? Is it inviting? Is a message fun to listen to? Is it encouraging and helpful?
Challenge - This refers to the degree others are encouraged to grow in their walk with Christ. Are they challenged? Are they held accountable? Are personal disciplines encouraged? Are sins exposed? Are expectations strong?
The theory is that churches tend to fall into one of these four quadrants:
- Low Invitation / High Challenge – Produces a discouraged/burnout culture.
- Low Invitation / Low Challenge – Produces a bored culture.
- High Invitation / Low Challenge – Produces a cozy/chaplaincy culture.
- High Invitation / High Challenge – Produces a discipling culture.
I wouldn’t attempt to put churches in one of these categories, but I could. I know some of each of these. Chances are you do too.
If you put Jesus, the master disciple-maker in this diagram, we find He was both high invitation…people loved to be around Him…they were attracted to Him…yet He continually challenged them. He confronted them where their life needed to change.
That’s the kind of church I want to be. Those are the kind of messages I want to deliver each time I speak. To be a discipling church, we must find ways to be high invitation and high challenge.
Have you seen each of these type churches?
In my NEXT POST, I’ll share one way this has altered my Sunday teaching and the way I evaluate a message.
A young college-aged girl told me recently that she didn’t enjoy reading her Bible and asked if there was an alternative book. Well…no! This is THE BOOK! There is no substitute. There are plenty of great Christian books, but none compare to this one.
I’ve heard similar concerns many times. The Bible intimidates many people; even those who are avid readers of other books.
I told this girl she could listen to the Bible on a CD or mp3, but I don’t think that’s the complete solution. I think we need to figure out how to enjoy reading God’s Word. Part of maturing as a Believer is to fall in love with the Bible.
Here are 7 suggestions which may help:
Pray – The Bible is not like any other book. You need God’s Spirit to help you. You should always pray before and as you read it. Ask God to help you understand what you’re reading. Good news here! This appears, in my experience, to be one of God’s favorite prayers to answer.
Version – Pick a version easiest for you to understand. I would suggest you read a more literal translation primarily, but the paraphrase versions are good for casual reading. I suggest NIV or NLT for a literal but readable version, ESV or NKJV if you want a most literal translation, or for a paraphrase version, that’s extremely readable, try The Message Version. I read some of each of these for my studies and fun reading.
Sharing – It brings Scripture to life when we can share it with others. Sharing your reading with your small group, a group of guys or girls at a coffee shop or a couple of people from work helps energize you for the passage. The key here is that when you talk about what you’re reading, it helps you value it more. (Read Philemon 6 for an example of this.)
Journaling – Writing about your time in God’s Word will help you process your thoughts and keep a record of them. It’s exciting to go back over time and remember what you read before. It fuels your enthusiasm for more.
Taking your time – I love the idea of reading the Bible through in a year. I’ve done this many times. I think it’s more important, however, that you benefit from what you’re reading. I sometimes meditate on a few verses or a story for a day. I also recommend people start with an easier book to understand and move to more difficult passages from there. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John are good places to start, because they are filled with great stories of Jesus.
Clarify – It’a best to have a study Bible for this part, but there are plenty of free online tools also. Look up words you don’t understand. Learn to use Bible dictionaries and commentaries. Look up passages, which aren’t clear, cross-referencing verses with other similar verses using footnotes. For some people, having a Bible study to work through along with reading the Bible is helpful.
Relationship - The best way to fall in love with God’s Word is to get to better know it’s author. It’s cliche now, but read it as a love letter written to you. If someone writes you a love letter, you’ll read it continually until you figure out what it means, and maybe even memorize parts of it along the way. If you can’t figure out something, you’ll consult the author. Fall more in love with God and you’ll find reading the Bible much easier. You may even someday say it’s “fun”!
What would you add to my list?
I often encounter people who want to begin a daily quiet time, but they aren’t sure how. It really isn’t as complicated as we often make it out to be. The main thing is simply to do something, but in case you are one of those still wanting to but not sure how…
Here are 5 easy steps to begin a daily quiet time:
Place - Pick a definite place where you’ll be everyday for your quiet time. Obviously if you travel frequently this is more difficult, but the more routine you can make this the better. It should be as free of distractions as possible. This place will soon become very comfortable to you.
Schedule Time - Pick a reasonable amount of time and put it on your schedule. If you use an electronic calendar like I do, you can set it to repeat the appointment everyday. Start with 15 minutes, maybe even 10. The key at this point is consistency, so make sure you don’t burden yourself with something you will not do. BTW, it most likely will seem like a sacrifice at first, but keep the objective in mind. You need this. As you accomplish discipline in a little time it will be easier to increase the time you spend.
Format - Decide basically how you will structure your quiet time. You may ask first what you hope to achieve and base your format around that. If developing intimacy with God in prayer is your goal, then certainly choose to spend more time in prayer. If Bible knowledge is your goal, then you may want to choose to do a Bible study. You can change the format over time and do combinations of each of these.
Activities – Decide what you will specifically do in your time. Will you do a Bible study or simply read Scripture and pray? If your time is 15 minutes, for example, you could spend 6 minutes reading the Bible, 3 minutes talking to God, 2 minutes in silence, asking God to speak to you, and 4 minutes writing your thoughts at the time. If you choose the structure of a Bible study, you may need to allow more time, but again, the key is that you decide before you start what you are going to do during this time. The goal is not to be mechanical or punch a clock here, but rather to provide structure, which will lead to productivity in your building your God relationship. Don’t worry as much about what activities you are doing at this point, just do something.
Discipline – Commit to doing something consistently for at least 30 days. Every day…without exception…do it…whether you “feel” like it or not. If you miss the exact time, make it up later in the day. Again, it will require sacrifice. Habits and lifestyles form this way and you’ll need this discipline, because as soon as you attempt this dozens of obstacles will stand in your way.
Now I realize “easy” is not the best choice of words for this post, but I did want you to read it. Forming this time into your daily schedule will not be easy. Nothing of value is ever easy. The main objective for any of us, including pastors, is disciplining ourselves to do something everyday. Over time, it becomes a habit that is easily repeated. Even better, it will soon become the best and most productive part of your day.
Help my readers out. What tips do you have? When do you do your daily quiet time? What format are you using?
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12
As believers, loving others is not to be an option, it’s to be a lifestyle. No one does that better than my wife Cheryl.
Recently we were on a 3 1/2 hour flight to San Francisco. I was in the window seat, Cheryl was in the middle, and a woman we didn’t know was in the aisle seat. I do some of my best work on a plane, so time seemed to pass quickly. I knew Cheryl was talking to the other woman, but didn’t pay much attention. I was in a zone and very focussed. (Cheryl’s always complimented me on being able to ignore everything around me )
At one point I looked up and Cheryl was crying…and so was this woman. Of course my first thought, as every man thinks when a woman cries, was “what did I do?” Once I realized it wasn’t about me this time, I said a little prayer for my wife…and went back to work. After we exited the plane Cheryl explained that this woman had just returned from her father’s funeral. Cheryl, who lost her father over a year ago, was able to minister to this woman on the flight to San Francisco. They traded contact information and Cheryl made herself available; all because of this brief encounter.
This week, Cheryl received this email:
I feel so blessed that in my time of need you not only sensed I was sad, but took the risk and reached out to me. I do believe fate put me in the seat next to you that day as you are still experiencing the same pain that was so new and raw for me. I will remember you and your act of kindness for the rest of my life. I will honor you, by following your example the next time I see someone in pain.
I love that. Seriously, I know I’m a pastor, but my church knows my wife is a better example of loving people than I am most days. She doesn’t love as a part of her ministry; she loves as a part of her heart.
Dear God, help me to love intentionally, like my wife does.
Do you know someone who is a model of intentional love? Pay tribute to them here.
Well, the week number reminds me that we are half way through the year. I hope you are enjoying the Scripture Memorization process this year and, more importantly, that it is making a difference in your life.
We’ve been looking at the Roman Road salvation verses for several weeks. The best way to get these is to simply click HERE for last week’s and go backwards. While we’ve been looking at how a person becomes saved; right with God, today’s verse points out the results of a person’s change of heart. If you claim to be a believer, then this should be the desire of your heart. Here is the final in this series of verses with this week’s memory verse:
I still have people joining into this process even midway through the year. Feel free to join us.