Monday, April 21, 2008

Acts: Dangerous Holiness

Has the church jumped the shark? I was looking at some pictures from a friend currently in Europe- big churches, no people. You might say they jumped the shark many moons ago.

Spiritual rigor mortis sets in without regular renewal.

The first century Jewish leaders who crucified Jesus certainly had jumped the shark. ‘Let’s get rid of the Messiah!’

Have we jumped the shark with trying to control, manage and operationalize the work of God?

Control freak: “People who care more than you do about something and won’t stop at being pushy to get their way.” Les Parrott

I still remember watching this three-part episode of Fonzie jumping the shark thinking, "This is the dumbest thing I've ever seen." It was very disappointing because the gang at Happy Days was my surrogate family!

The term "Jump The Shark" has since become a part of everyday lexicon indicating a time where one has radically departed from the original mission. Watch this but be careful, the suspense is excruciating!

Willow Creek jumps the shark!
They’re making the biggest changes to the church in over 30 years. For three decades Willow has been focused on making the church appealing to seekers. But the research shows that it’s the mature believers that drive everything in the church—including evangelism.

Hawkins says, “We used to think you can’t upset a seeker. But while focusing on that we’ve really upset the Christ-centered people.” He spoke about the high levels of dissatisfaction mature believer have with churches. Drawing from the 200 churches and the 57,000 people that have taken the survey, he said that most people are leaving the church because they’re not being challenged enough.

Because it’s the mature Christians who drive evangelism in the church Hawkins says, “Our strategy to reach seekers is now about focusing on the mature believers. This is a huge shift for Willow.”

One major implementation of this shift will occur in June when Willow ends their mid-week worship services that had been geared toward believers. Instead the church will morph these mid-week events into classes for people at different stages of growth. There will be theological and bible classes full of “hard-hitting stuff.” Hawkins said most people are very enthusiastic about the change.

On the seeker end of the spectrum, Willow is also changing how they produce their weekend services. For years the value people appreciated most about the seeker-oriented weekend services was anonymity. This is what all their research showed. People didn’t want to be identified, approached, confronted, or asked to do anything. But those days are over.

“Anonymity is not the driving value for seeker services anymore,” says Hawkins. “We’ve taken anonymity and shot it in the head. It’s dead. Gone.” In the past Willow believed that seekers didn’t want large doses of the Bible or deep worship music. They didn’t want to be challenged. Now their seeker-sensitive services are loaded with worship music, prayer, Scripture readings, and more challenging teaching from the Bible.

Willow has been wrestling with the research from REVEAL since 2004. Hawkins said, “We’ve tried incremental changes for four years, but now we know we have to overhaul our whole strategy.” Small steps are no longer the method; Willow is revamping everything. “It would be malpractice for us to not do something with what we’re learning.”

In the larger REVEAL survey taken by 200 churches, people were asked what they want most from their church. Three of the top four responses were:
1. Help me understand the Bible in greater depth
2. Help me develop a closer personal relationship with Christ
3. Challenge me to grow and take the next step in my faith (from Out Of Ur blog)

We’ve been talking about ‘unlearning’ and relearning total dependence on God. We call this ‘morphing’. We are in bad need of morphing when we wake up and realize that we’ve jumped the shark!

Philippians 2:7
Jesus took the form (morphe) of a servant.

Prayer that recognized a total dependence upon God permeated the life of the early church.

TRUST God vs. trust GOD

Turn our worries into prayers.

A focused life- absolute surrender. Measure Your Mindset- what do you expect from God? Is it your way or the highway?

Many Christians know they have been saved from their past lives but now feel caught in a no-mans land. They have been brought out of slavery in Egypt, are at present in the wilderness and have not yet entered the Promised Land. Their Christians lives are a wilderness. They know what they ought to do but cannot. They understand the truth of the gospel but know that it is not lived out in their lives.

We need to discover being led by the Spirit and into a journey with other followers of Jesus.

“Biblical community is the life of Christ on earth today.” Randy Frazee

Acts 2:42-47
Acts 4:32-37
Acts 5:1-11
shows us the passion of Jesus vs. the passion of Judas (Acts 1)

"Money makes you happy—if you spend it on others." Carey Goldberg, The Boston Globe

"Studies of happiness have long found that unless people are extremely poor, getting more money brings surprisingly slight gains in positive feelings." Elizabeth Dunn, University of British Columbia, Michael Norton, Harvard Business School

"The size of the bonus you get has no relation to how happy you are, but the amount you spend on other people does predict how happy you are." Those who spent on others felt happier than those who spent it on themselves.

North Americans tend to spend their money on possessions, but research shows that the happiness from a bigger house or television set quickly dwindles as people get used to the benefits and face the responsibility that comes with ownership. Whereas taking a friend out to lunch, say, is more of an experience, and more likely to yield longer-lasting good feelings.

So why are people so poor at predicting that spending money on others is a reliable road to happiness?

"Marketers are bombarding us with these ideas that we need a Lexus, so you can't entirely blame people for getting tricked."

It is also much easier to count money than to measure happiness. "If you think about getting ahead in life, you can say, 'Last year I made X, and now I'm making X plus 10.'"

There appears to be an inborn need to help or contribute to others. Dr. Robert Brooks

"Initially there is a big increase in happiness, but then it reverts to its original level. So why do people want to win lotteries? They have a rather short-term focus, and they don't seem to grasp long-term ways their own feelings work." Richard Layard, London School of Economics

"If anyone had told me when I first started my career how much money I would eventually be making I would have been ecstatic. I would have felt that I was a real success. But now I don't feel ecstatic. I don't feel successful. I only feel sad and empty."

Acts 5:1-11 shows the dangerous holiness of this early movement.
Acts 5:12-16
Acts 6:1-7
These guys just won’t shut up! Proclamation!

Outsiders are now insiders!

Make it up as you go along; wiring it live; building the bridge as you walk on it. Trust GOD because He’s the one who is leading! The everlasting arms are there to catch us.

No home groups, no ministries, just disciples! If we have disciples they get together in community & reach their friends fir Christ & love the. Not a bigger & better goal, but an unleashing, a decentralized ability to follow what God is asking each & every one of us to do.

Every once in a while someone will ask me when we’re going to “get a church.” The question is innocent enough and I’m sure it’s well intentioned, but it does believe a common misconception. Let me clear it up: the church is not a building. You can’t go to church because you are the church! Besides that, why build a “church” when you’ve got a Union Station? Mark Batterson

"The primal responsibility of Christian proclamation is to empower the community to reimagine the world as if Christ, and not the powers, were sovereign." Walsh and Keesmaat

“I choose joy...I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical...the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.” Max Lucado

"When you see what you're here for, the world begins to mirror your purpose in a magical way. It's almost as if you suddenly find yourself on a stage in a play that was written expressly for you." Betty Sue Flowers

How God’s people embed themselves into the muck of the world to influence hearts towards God’s alternative kingdom. That’s it!

There is a truth to know.
There is a way to follow.
There is a person to love.
And that ultimately these are all about Jesus. Dangerous holiness!


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