Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Reductionist Gospel

Some random thoughts on the reductionist gospel...

The reductionist gospel is when we reduce the full measure of God's good news in Jesus Christ to good news ONLY as personal salvation, going to heaven, getting the bus ticket to glory land punched.

Our emergent friends have rightly critiqued this notion of evangelical thought as minimizing the full Gospel of Christ. They rightly contend that the Gospel also is about societal transformation, the defeat of unjust systems in the world, humanity living out its full potential as God intends and a host of other things. To reduce the good news, Jesus' life death and resurrection, to simply "getting to heaven" is to a disservice to all that Christ came to do. To believe that Jesus only came to be a religious exchanger of goods (namely- just to give you and me salvation) is about as wildly narcissistic as Twitter. ((or blogging!))

While this critique holds merit the key word above in the first paragraph is ONLY. Make no mistake that Jesus did come so that we might receive personal salvation and be made right with God. But that was not his ONLY reason for coming. He came to redeem the world including communities, creation, and unjust religious and political systems. The problem with many of those in the emergent camp is that they while they claim to be post-liberal and post everything else they have come in many ways to be a modern day repository of liberal theological interpretation. It is the same old thing with a new face. As much as evangelical thought has reduced the Gospel in the last thirty years to ONLY personal salvation those in the liberal/ emergent camp have reduced the Gospel to good deeds aligning with the policies and politics of the United Nations and the Democrat Party in the US.

This is the same old argument of do we save souls or save the world. I say avoid the tyranny of the "either/ or" and embrace the blessing of the "both/ and" (thanks Jim Collins). We do both as the church. That to me is the genius of Wesleyan thought- holiness of heart and life, personal holiness and social holiness. Wesley's thought continues to be relevant today.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

And then some...

I was recently at a men's conference where one of the workshops was about being a better dad and passing the baton and one of the principles the presenter talked about was passing along to your child the "and then some principle." It is a principle that most people know as going the extra mile. It is a worthwhile principle to pass along to a child and to practice in one's life.

I have been thinking about how this applies to church. It seems to me the "and then some principle" is the antithesis of what I have often heard in churches: "It is only church." What would it look like for the church to consistently practice "and then some" principles as part of its life as it relates to those who have never been or stopped going to church? How does the church go the extra mile and practice "and then some" ministry.

Some ideas (though not exhaustive)...
A great website that is easy to use for people to anonymously check out the church.
Not one greeter handing out worship programs but multiple greeters and a person whose sole job is to connect guests with regular attendees and make them comfortable.
A follow up process with first time guests that goes beyond expectation and is friendly yet not overbearing.
Not only using the auditory senses in worship but engaging all the senses to tell the age old message of the Gospel.
And so much more.

"And then some" is easier said than done but is a goal to work toward for the church and is a means to help persons become empowered and radical followers of Jesus to change the world.

Overcoming Addictions

Here is the audio from Sunday's message "Overcoming Addictions" from the Baggage series.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Exponential Conference

I just got back from the Exponential National New Church Conference in Orlando, FL. The theme for this year's conference was "The Art of Movements". This is the third year I have attended and it is just as good every year.

Monday and Tuesday I got to be involved in the pre-intensive sessions and attended David Mills Compassion by Design. If you want to reach and change your community check out Compassion by Design.

The plenary sessions were great too. We got to hear from both domestic and international persons doing church planting. These guys did not disappoint and the Spirit was on them as they spoke. Erwin McManus, Craig Groeschel and Bob Roberts as well as those who spoke with them hit home runs each time. I had to leave last night so will not get to hear Francis Chan this morning but am thankful as that they usually put these guys' talks on the Exponential podcast.

My track session was the Nuts and Bolts session in which we could choose from a variety of informative and practical 1 hour workshops in-between plenary sessions. Gary Lamb did a great breakout on being portable in which he shared so many resources that was worth the cost of admission.

I also got to connect with some other church planters as well as with Anna Workman from the Virginia Conference who was also in attendance.

It is good to be back, though I am glad I went. I hope to post some more about it in the days ahead.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is Risen!

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Corinthians 15:55

In other words death, Satan, the mob, the religious elite, the rulers of this world can "bite me." Take that!

The victory has been won!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

The journey to the cross of Lent culminates in the cross of Christ which is marked today on Good Friday. (Liturgical hounds can save their emails- I know Lent officially ends on Maundy Thursday). You can read about the cross here. Though I have read about it, heard it, preached about it, studied it a thousand times I stand amazed at God's love that pervades the whole episode.

Some thoughts about the cross and Good Friday:

Why call it good? There was not much good about that Friday in many ways. And yet, it was the greatest thing that ever occurred as humanity was reconciled to a holy God and we were saved from our human brokenness and sin both individually and corporately. That is why it is good.

Poor Simon of Cyrene. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Though maybe it was the right place at the right time as his sons later become followers of Jesus.

This story drips of God's mercy not only to all of humanity but to those who crucified Jesus. "Father forgive them for they know what they do!" Unbelievable!

Look at his treatment: sneered at, insulted, and crucified.

The centurion's faith- makes a complete and truthful confession- "This was the Son of God."

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Egg Hunt 2009

We had our church's annual egg hunt on Sunday. What a great day for it. Sunny and warm, no threat of rain. It was so sunny many of us serving got sunburns. At New Season we believe that almost all things can better be done outside the walls/ grounds of the church. So we take our Egg Hunt on the road. We have done it for five years at the Lancaster Gate subdivision in our mission field.

This year we had another great turnout of 150-200 people and a great time egg hunting, on the moon bounce, at the firetruck, eating hot dogs and cotton candy, doing the egg toss, getting faces painted, dyeing eggs and much, much more. A huge thank you to all our great volunteers who served so well to help others experience a great time and more importantly the love of Christ. Here are some pics from the event. The rest I will upload to Facebook.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Bridge- Celebration of Music Sunday

This past Sunday we gave thanks to God for the gift of music. It is great that music helps us to praise God in so many ways. Music complements and makes other aspects of worship that much more meaningful. Like worship in general, music points us to the sacred dance of call and response between God and us whereby God calls us to experience his power and presence and calls us to go out into the world to love him and others and we respond by doing so.

Here is the message.

The occasion for our celebration of music was the release of our Celebration Team Leader Steve Kropp's new CD "The Bridge." Music serves as a bridge to encountering God, points us to the ultimate bridge between God and humanity Jesus Christ, and can serve as a bridge for us to invite people to experience God's love. Check out the CD here.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Easter Prayer Vigil

This year at New Season we are doing an Easter Prayer Vigil.

Here is the deal. We will be praying starting Saturday evening beginning at 7PM until Sunday morning at 7AM as we prepare to mark how Jesus' kicked the snot out of death and the devil and was raised from the dead.

We are asking people to sign up for a one hour time slot. You will be asked to pray for half an hour and then just be present for a half hour to either continue praying if you wish, read, or gaze at your belly button lint. We will have two people at all times for safety sake (one of which may or may not have a concealed weapons permit). While you are praying someone else will be present and while they pray you will just be present. We will provide a prayer guide to help guide your prayers.

Eastland UMC on Courthouse Road has graciously opened their worship space to us to hold the Easter Prayer Vigil. To sign up for a time, please go here.