Last year I was convicted by God to sit down and develop a discipleship plan for the people of RE.THINK.
After researching and praying, I am confident about this plan. In the next few emails, I'd love to share the 6 questions each follower of Jesus should answer.
Our goal at RE.THINK Church to help people follow Jesus. Following Jesus is how we experience the best life possible. Following Jesus implies movement and action, not passive observation.
The first of these questions deal with Scripture. The Bible is a collection of books, letters, poems, genres of literature. It is God-inspired and authoritative. The Bible is one united narrative the points to Jesus.
Here's the first question we should work through on our own. How will I learn God's word?
Knowledge should lead to transformation.
The method we encourage people to use when reading the Bible is the SOAP method. Scripture Observation Application and Prayer. I hope that we each sit down and develop a plan to learn God's word in 2020. We will experience Jesus in life-giving ways.
The second question we should work through is: How will I fuel my affections for Jesus?
I said 'Yes' to Heather over 17 years ago. I find myself more in love with her today than I was in college when we're dating. When she walks in the room, I suck in my gut, my attention and focus is on her. We recently took a trip to spend time together. That was the goal. We just wanted to be with each other. I had no agenda; I had no plans other than to be with her.
Life happens to us all, doesn't it? It's so easy to get busy and lose focus on the crucial things in life. If we aren't careful, we'll become part of the machine of life and forget Jesus. He'll become a side portion of our life, but not our foundation.
We were created to worship Jesus. Worship is a Biblical word that means to assign worth to. Another explanation of worship is our enjoyment of God.
Our aim isn't to gain more knowledge about Jesus, it should be to love Jesus more.
How will I worship? Will you worship as Jesus did? Jesus sabbathed, and in practicing the Sabbath, He worshiped the Father.
Do we see our work as worship? God has assigned you to that job to that company or organization as His ambassador. How you perform your job responsibilities is an act of worship.
Do you see your generosity as an act of worship? Some of us might tithe, meaning we give 10% of our income to RE.THINK. That is an act of worship. Do we see our tithing as an act of worship?
Each Sunday (except) the last Sunday of each year, we gather together at 10:30. This gathering isn't just to go through the motions. It's to declare our WANT for Jesus.
Declaring our WANT for Jesus fuels our affections of Jesus.
Now the temptation you find in "Churchianity" is staying here. Jesus and his early followers don't line up with 'Churchianity.' They understood the importance of the next question: Who will I disciple?
The purpose of the first followers of Jesus wasn't to get people to sit in a church pew. The purpose of the followers of Jesus was to model what Jesus did over and over again.
Jesus spent time with His Father. He was constantly getting away from people to connect with His Father. We can describe that movement as UP. He then would spend time with His disciples. He found a community that he could belong in. He connected with these 12 disciples, they experienced life together. They ate meals together, prayed together, walked the land together. We could describe this movement as IN. Jesus and his disciples then would go out and meet crowds. These crowds didn't know the Kingdom of Heaven yet. They didn't know Jesus as the Messiah. Some of the people in these crowds were blind, sick, crippled, even dead. After they encountered Jesus, they walked away from the crowd changed. We can describe this movement as OUT.
Passionate spirituality leads to an authentic relationship in a community. A community of believers should serve others who are outside the community. We could use Mark 9 as an example of this. Jesus spends time UP on the mountain connecting with His Father. He then comes down from that mountain and spends time with the community of disciples. Jesus and His disciples serve those outside the community.
Answering the following questions might help you work through this issue:
-Who doesn't know Jesus in my life?
-How will I partner with God to spread the gospel?
-When will I create time to share the gospel with them? A simple way to do this is to follow the BLESS rhythm. Begin with prayer. Listen. Don't talk, just listen to their story of pain, transitions, joy, celebration. Mourn with those who mourn, celebrate with those who celebrate! Eat. We have 21 opportunities to turn a normal meal into a divine appointment to bless someone. Serve them. After listening to a person, God will reveal to you how to best serve them. Story. Tell your story of following Jesus.
People who grew up in 'Churchianity' will always ask why. Why should we make disciples? Here's the simple answer, someone shared the gospel with me. Besides, it's the last thing Jesus told his disciples to do before ascending to Heaven 2,000 years ago. Jesus saved me from sin and death with a purpose. I hope we never become so arrogant that we don't share Jesus with others.
4. How will I show God's love in my local Church?
I'm not ignorant to the fact that the best sermons and worship songs are a few clicks away. It could be easier to stay at home and consume sermons. I believe that online content is a great starting point for most people. In fact, most of the people of RE.THINK checked us out online before stepping in our doors.
We are creating a movement that blesses Merrillville for generations to come. That vision is more significant than online content. That's why we served our community before we held services. While online content is great, it doesn't replace the mission that Jesus has sent us on.
As we bless Merrillville, we will continue to make disciples of Jesus. Here are a few questions to work through:
-Is R|C the Church you can join to make disciples?
-Will I join the mission and submit to the authority of the leadership of R|C?
-What role will I play in making disciples?
It's impossible to make disciples outside the relationship with a local church. Not to be clear, 'church' doesn't have to look like what we are used to in 2020 in North America.
One of the most fascinating aspects of following Jesus is that we are part of a family. Our family goes beyond racial barriers, nationality barriers. This question we need to work through is: How will I spread God's glory among all the nations and people of the world?
I grew up thinking that missionaries were kind of navy seals. Only the elite could live like this. I believed that my role was to work a regular job and send the elite Christians money so they could live like this. Then I read the Bible. I saw a man who studied the Bible, made tents like a normal person, tell others about Jesus. I saw fishermen follow Jesus and then tell others about Jesus. Jesus specializes in using ordinary men and women to do extraordinary accomplishments.
Jesus is creating a generation of priests who will represent Jesus to the nations on this earth. According to Paul (2 Corinthians 5), we are Christ's ambassadors on this earth.
We should work through the following questions:
As an organization RE.THINK wants to help you live generously. The Bible describes two significant categories of giving. A tithe (meant for a local church like RE.THINK) and offerings are above and beyond our tithes.
RE.THINK Church wouldn't exist without Christians around the world giving offerings. There are a few topics to keep in mind when discussing offerings.
We can give to provide the physical needs of brothers and sisters around the world. Kind of like buying coffee from HOPE Coffee or Destiny Rescue to free victims of sex trafficking.
We can also give to provide the spiritual needs of non-Christians around the world. The purpose of giving like this is to provide an opportunity to encounter Jesus. For example, what other believers gave toward the mission of RE.THINK Church.
We also need to work through the issue of going. We need to pray about going on a short-term mission trip for a week or so. After going on a short term missions trip, we could consider going on a midterm trip for 6 months to a year. Some of us might have a call for long term missions as well like 18 months and beyond.
The harsh reality national borders might close to 'Christians.' They will open for business leaders. While I worked at Denso Manufacturing, I saw this in action. We had plants in Indonesia, India, China, Myanmar. I would meet virtually with associates from these plants weekly. I met in person with them as we collaborated on a project in our Michigan plant. I was talking with a guy from Indonesia (where it's illegal to be a Christian) about our faith. He is also a Christian and was blown away at how easy it is to follow Jesus here in America. The original plan was for me to travel to his plant in Indonesia to complete the project. I transitioned to another job within that company before that took place. Business leaders could travel to other countries as engineers, teachers, bankers. While doing their job to be Christ's ambassadors in those countries.
The question we need to answer honestly is this, does God have a blank check with my life? Can God do anything and everything with my life that He wants to.
The last question we need to work through is how I will make disciple-makers among a few?
Jesus' strategy is fascinating to me. He gathers crowds of several thousand. He then invests and trains up a group of 72 disciples. He spends most of this time with a smaller group we refer to as the 12 apostles. Did you know that Jesus played favorites too? If we look at Mark 9 again, we can see that Jesus took 3 disciples up to this mountain top. Imagine the tension between Andrew and his brother Peter. Peter was invited to go with Jesus, but Andrew wasn't.
While you might not be able to make disciples among multitudes, could you disciple a few? As Andy Stanley says, "do for a few what you wish you could do for everyone."
This isn't meant to a complete picture of our strategy of making disciples, but it's a launching point. We want to help you follow Jesus and experience the joy He has for each of us.
Yesterday, I was sitting on the couch having a conversation with my wife. As we talked, a text message came in on both our phones. We both glanced at our phones and kept the conversation going. Heather put her phone down, but I kept looking through mine.
She said some important things as I kept looking through my emails. She kindly asked, "You didn't hear a word I said, did you?" My reply was simple, "I'm still listening to you."
Now we all know this to be accurate, listening and hearing are so different. We can listen to things but not hear them.
Mobile smartphones are only making this more and more evident in our society. The issue isn't only how we interact with each other. It's also affecting how we interact with God.
Currently, I'm studying the Gospel of Matthew for our church. We will be studying Matthew for the next several months as a community.
I reread the parable of the soils a few weeks ago in Matthew 13. I won't get into the fantastic truths about this parable and how explosive Jesus' words are here. I'll save that for our Sunday teachings.
Jesus gave us the secret to the Kingdom of Heaven. It's a two-part reality. Hearing the truth of Jesus and executing these truths in life.
Allow me to nerd out on something for a minute. Jesus would have spoken Hebrew. When the authors of the Gospels wrote the teachings and events of Jesus, they wrote in Greek.
Jesus being a devout Jew, would have prayed the Shema every day. The Shema starts out, "Hear o Israel..." Listening and hearing are not the same. This concept is central to being a Jew.
God doesn't want us to listen. He wants us to hear God. There is no word that means “to obey” in the Hebrew language. Shema is used for both the meanings “to obey” and “to hear”. Hearing something implies we'll obey. A disciple of Jesus is someone who hears and obeys Jesus.
Every human was born with a God-sized, God-given dream. God is on the move to rescue and redeem humanity. Part of the rescue mission is unleashing the God-sized and God-given dreams in humanity.
There is a theme all throughout the Bible that God speaks the truth and humans hear that word from God. Now the challenging part comes to act on that truth.
Human nature is that we want to know the answers to our questions. We want a detailed description of the plan. God doesn't usually give us those details. The secret to the way of Jesus is that we listen and do. In the doing, we'll grasp understanding.
This is what exercising our faith looks like. If we understood the plan or understood the details and went from step 1 to step 2, how much faith does that need? Following Jesus isn't a paint by numbers event. It's a faith-filled journey.
Just to clarify, working out our faith doesn’t earn our salvation, it’s simply working our faith out. Jesus freely offers salvation, we simply need to accept it.
People are willing to receive a word from God, but we tend to avoid work for God.
How many God-sized, God-given dreams go unleashed? Not because God didn't reveal them, but because people were unwilling to put in the work.
Photo by Ross Sokolovski on Unsplash
Have you ever wondered why it seems that the church grew in amazing ways in the early years? Reading through the book of Acts, thousands of people came to know Jesus at events (Acts 2 and Acts 4). This continues through the New Testament books.
The Bible, as we know it, wasn't put together for at least 200 years after Jesus' life. When it came to maturing in their relationship with Jesus, reading the Bible wasn't a thing for them. Yet, it seems like the followers of Jesus matured and grew in ways that we can't seem to figure out in 2019.
Recently I learned about a document called The Didache. This document was something that shaped the lives of followers of Jesus. The Didache lays out a schedule of daily prayers, fasting and taking communion. These practices are called spiritual disciplines.
Early Christians connected to God as Jesus did through spiritual disciplines. This connection is so crucial as we live this life.
Last week, I plugged my phone in to charge it. When I woke up in the morning, my phone was at 10%. I neglected to make sure that the cord itself was plugged into the wall outlet. My phone looked like it had a connection to power, but it didn't.
How many of us Christians walk around looking like we are connected to God, but we have no connection at all? We show up to church every so often but don't make engaging in church a part of our life. We may read the Bible every so often but we get confused by the Bible, so we give up. Our relationship with Jesus stalls. We settle for a mediocre relationship with Jesus instead of what we see in the New Testament.
I'd encourage you to create a daily rhythm of spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines help us connect to God like Jesus did while He lived here on earth.
June 30th, we are starting a message series called “Our Lord's Prayer”. We are challenging our people to pray this prayer each day. We also encourage our people to join a small group. Our small groups are where we learn to read the Bible. We use a method called S.O.A.P. SOAP stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.
We'll explore other spiritual disciplines in the next post.
I have a 15-year-old son. He’s starting to learn how to drive. As I’ve taught him a few of the basics of driving it’s been fun to watch him slowly grasp the concept of driving.
One of the basics my wife and I have taught him is the principal of the review mirrors.
If you’ve spent any amount of time driving you may know what I’m about to say is basic. In order to make informed decisions moving forward, a driver should glance in her review mirror. If you don’t you have a high risk of making a stupid decision that will end in someone getting hurt.
Now a driver can’t dwell in the past or we’ll end up crashing as well. There is a fine balance between glancing and dwelling. Not looking at all and dwelling are equally as bad as we drive forward.
As we move forward as a church I’ve taken a lesson from this simple, elementary truth from driving. Looking into the review mirror of history in order to make informed decisions moving into our future. We can’t ignore what God has done in the past, we also can’t dwell on it either.
There have been times throughout history that God has supernaturally moved in specific areas throughout history. God’s spirit has been poured out, miracles have taken place, people have been healed, marriages restored, thousands of people have found salvation in Jesus. These revivals have transformed individual, family and community legacies.
As I’ve studied these revivals throughout history there are a few common themes throughout each one. Starting with the first revival in Acts 2 a group of young people got together and started praying. They waited until God moved. The Great Awakening, the Second Awakening, Asuza Street Revival in 1906 each have an origin story of young people getting together praying seeking God. Waiting for God to move. That sounds simple enough.
I had a moment of honesty with myself.
True confession time. I struggle at praying. I know people who spend hours praying, and to them, it seems like a few seconds. I spend a few seconds praying and it seems like it’s been hours.
I’m learning to pray. I know I should have this mastered, but I don’t. Maybe you do, but I don’t. Like Jesus’ original disciples I find myself asking Jesus, teach me to pray.
Here is where I REALLY struggle. I have a tendency to pry doors open. I don’t like to wait. So as I ask Jesus to teach me to pray I want to pry doors open. Pastor Kevin Queen has a brilliant statement, he’d rather pray a door open than pry a door open.
I’m learning this. Jesus, teach me to pray.
I repeat this statement over and over and over again throughout my day. I’m glad I’m not the only one who needed help learning how to pray. Jesus’ original disciples asked Jesus this.
Jesus taught them how to pray. His response is documented in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. These are the same events, simply documented by 2 different people.
Jesus doesn’t shy away from questions. He doesn’t laugh and demand his disciples know the right answers. He models it for these high school age guys. So often I feel like I should have these things mastered, and know all the right answers. I am comforted knowing that Jesus teachings us.
I’m pretty sure Jesus realized that 70% of knowledge is learned through experience. He didn’t just model prayer in these examples Jesus prayed often throughout the gospels. The authors of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke & John continually mention that Jesus would pull away from crowds and pray. He longed for the time with His father.
As we walk through this season we are asking followers of Jesus to pray throughout Merrillville. We don’t have a catchy slogan like Awaken the ‘Ville yet, but we are asking people to pray as we drive. If you don’t know what to pray, simply ask, Jesus, teach me to pray.
In the coming weeks, you’ll notice a few maps of the streets in Merrillville in our lobby. We are asking people the people of RE.THINK Church to pray as we drive, walk, travel throughout Merrillville. As you pray remember where you’ve driven and highlighted the maps on Sundays when you enter our building.
In the next few days, we’ll post another blog and send another email with suggested prayers. I’m still learning how to pray. I still ask Jesus, teach me to pray.
Photo by Matthew LeJune on Unsplash
This last Wednesday was the beginning of a season in the church world called Lent.
Some of us may have participated in Lent throughout our lives. Some of us may not have. I personally never participated in Lent. I have several friends who have, and this season is significant to them.
Jesus warns us not to merely go through the motions of religious traditions to do it. He always encouraged His followers to find meaning and purpose in doing so.
At RE.THINK Church we encourage followers of Jesus to take seasons throughout the year and seek Jesus in meaningful ways. There are times that we encourage people to disconnect from parts of our society to connect with Jesus more profoundly.
During these next weeks as we prepare for Easter. If you feel like you should participate in Lent, I will encourage you to do so for a deeper connection with Jesus.
I'm attaching a link for some Bible Lent Plans to guide you through Lent. I'd encourage you to find a plan and participate in Lent if you feel like this is something you should do.
So as we anticipate Jesus' 2nd arrival we look into the rearview mirror of history and remember his 1st arrival. That's the season we are in right now. We are preparing as we remember.
We believe that God wants us to prepare during this season intentionally. As a church community, we believe that one of the best habits to create to adjust is showing kindness. A couple of weeks ago as we prepare for this season, we gave each family unit an envelope. Inside this envelope was a set amount of money. We asked families to add at least $5 to whatever was in the envelope and show kindness to someone using that envelope. It's been enjoyable to hear the stories of how God is working through our people and those envelopes to share kindness.
We also created a Christmas in the 'Ville Framily Guide. This document is a resource we want our people to use to create some intentional memories as a group of friends or as a family.
As we prepare this season, music is crucial for us. We created an Advent Spotify playlist for you to listen to on your own. Enjoy.
Remember this is all to help us remember Jesus' first arrival as we look forward to His second arrival that is to come. His prior arrival brought hope and a glimpse of what is to be. His second arrival will be the completion of that hope that glimpse.
So technically speaking we are in the Advent season, not Christmas season. I know small technicality who cares right? Christmas season starts 25th; Advent season is the season leading up to Christmas, it ends December 24th on Christmas Eve.
In our previous installment on our mini-series, we mentioned that Advent is the season of anticipation of Christ arrival. Jesus arrived once on this earth. Some people who had been waiting for generations missed this arrival. Others, however, saw the coming and traveled to encounter Jesus.
Jesus lived 33 years on this earth; history recorded only about 10% of His lives events. 90% of His lives events are undocumented. Think of an iceberg. 90% of this massive structure in the ocean is underneath the water unseen. Around 10% of that iceberg is above the water. These icebergs are unmovable. The Titanic was taken down because of the hidden parts of the ice underneath the water.
Foundation of Jesus' live was solid. Yes, He is 100% God and 100% man. That 100% man portion, however, had to be developed it had to be matured. Jesus grew in wisdom & stature (Luke 2:52).
I think there is something to be said about the amount of documentation we put into our own lives. We live in a day and age of Instagram Stories, IGTV, Facebook Live, Snaps, Tweets among so many others documenting around 90% of our live events. What would happen if we decided to follow Jesus' example and build a foundation in the unseen parts of our lives that was solid, lifegiving and world-changing?
Jesus is undoubtedly the most influential human in the history of humanity. His example the decisions he made in His lifetime changed the course of humanity.
During His lifetime He was arrested, falsely accused, humiliated, hung on a cross to pay the sins of the world. He was buried in a tomb. Three days later he rose from that grave. Forty days later he met with His disciples and told them He was returning at some point.
2,000+ years later we are waiting. We are still waiting. Some of us might have given up on the His second arrival. Some of us might not even believe Him. I'd encourage you, however, to take a glance in the rearview mirror of history to move forward into the future.
History, science, art, among so many other fields, point to God and the existence of God. Take a look at books like Problem of God by Mark Clark, read through or Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel. These authors unpack this topic in surprising ways.
Jesus' second arrival will be the completion of what He started on this earth on His first arrival. What we see now is only a glimpse of what is to come.
So it's here, have you noticed the cold weather, some snow, Christmas lights are up, things are getting busy. We're in the midst of Christmas Season! Some of us love it, some of us not so much.
As we enter the remaining portion of this Christmas Season, I want to encourage you to pause and intentionally move forward with your limited time, limited resources. As a church community, we are asking the people of RE.THINK to be Jesus centered, and others focused.
To move forward intentionally, however, we should take a lesson from driving. Some of you are decent drivers; some struggle to drive at least the speed limit, I struggle to stay under the speed limit. No matter how fast or slow you drive, however, to make an informed, intentional decision moving forward you must at least glance into the rearview mirrors. As a driver, you can't fixate on the rearview mirror, or you'll crash and struggle to move forward. You also can't ignore the rearview mirror, or you'll hit something near you. To move forward as a family, individual or a group of friends this season let's look in the rearview mirrors of our lives and for some of us our faith.
The season we are in is referred to as the Advent Season in the church world. Advent is a Latin word that reminds us of anticipation, a longing for an expected arrival.
In the first century Roman-ruled country most Israelites were found not waiting, not anticipating. Since before the beginning of the history of the nation their prophets and been prophesying that the Messiah would arrive, the Messiah would save them from their sins, the Messiah would establish His kingdom on this earth.
1,000's of miles away a group of non-Israelite people saw the evidence of something unusual they had been anticipating the arrival of the Messiah for almost 600 years, they noticed the evidence of the event of the one born king of the Jews and moved. That's right they saw the proof of the thing they had hoped for, they had longed for and adjusted their schedules and calendars and moved.
So how could the Israelites miss it? How could the magi from the east see it?
I think the Israelites missed it because they spent generations anticipating, and waiting for the Messiah, and it seemed that God ran late. God didn't show up the manner they expected, or in the timeline, they hoped.
I can't be the only person who has missed out on a meeting because I was running late. So late that other party left the designated place to meet. I think that's what happened with the Israelites. I think they assumed God was running late and they gave up. Yes, they still went through the religious motions and hoped for the Messiah's arrival. The Messiah didn't arrive in the manner they expected or in the timeline they hoped.
God wasn't late. However, God was on His timeline. One of the earlier church leaders writing to a group of Christ followers reminds the Galatian church in Galatians 4:4 "But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship."
God arrived when He intended to. The 1st-century people just missed it. They look at their current realities of being ruled by a foreign empire, their lack of economic status. They kept looking at their existence, not realizing that God arrived to be with them.
No matter what our current realities might be, God will show up when He intends to. Let's not be caught missing out because we didn't take time to see God show up. This season reminds us to anticipate the 2nd arrival of Jesus. Jesus arrived on this earth once. He told us that he would come again. Humanity has been in 2,000+ years of advent awaiting His second arrival.
Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash
How do you know you’re successful at this whole life thing? I’ll be honest. I’m tempted to gauge my success based on my bank account. I’m also tempted to gauge my success at how well my sons behave. We have the same questions as a church.
How do church leaders know if they are successful or not?
When I was a kid, I played baseball --kind of. I assumed I knew what it meant to keep score because I knew that the team with the most runs scored won the game. Then I attended a game with my friend and his dad. Gary handed me a scorecard. I was lost. I had no clue what to do with it. Now, to be honest, I’ve forgotten most of what he taught me that day. What I do remember from that day, however, was that there are so many leading indicators that help us predict who will have the most runs scored at the end of nine innings. The number of strikeouts, the number of walks, hits and RBI’s etc all help to indicate what team will have the most runs scored at the end.
Our church started thinking how we could discover whether we are successful or not as a church using this same idea. If so, then what’s the scoreboard? We don’t have runs scored. We don’t have touchdowns or points. We have some obvious items to track such as the number of people attending our church and the number of people who have made the decision to trust and follow Jesus and His ways. But beyond those items, what else could we measure?
We decided to develop a scorecard. Kind of like baseball, we track all potential next steps people could take. We track everything from liking and following us on social media platforms to baptism to leading a small group. We believe that God wants to do something in and through each person. There is Kingdom Potential in all of us and we hope to help anyone unlock that Kingdom Potential.
We’ve assigned each potential next steps for people at RE.THINK a set amount of points. Our August score total was 3998 September score total was 4803 and so far in October with 2 weeks to go at the time I’m writing this is 3061. We are building a baseline to understand how easily people can take their next steps at RE.THINK Church as each person matures in their relationship with Jesus.
So if we were to personalize this, could there be leading indicators in your life that would help you understand if you’re being successful or maturing as a person? The author of the letter of Galatians wrote these words, But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
So how do you and I know if we are maturing in our relationship with Jesus? How patient are you? How loving are you? When you walk into a room, do people know you as a person of peace or not? Are you kind?
Now to be completely honest, you’re not going to become more peaceful, more loving, kinder and more gentle on your own. It’s only as a result of living connected to the Holy Spirit. These are the products of being connected. So how do you and I stay connected to the Holy Spirit?
I think this is where the leading indicators help us determine if we are maturing or not.
#1. Do you recognize the difference between going to church and being the church? We recently kicked off one of our favorite message series, Stop Going to Church, with a message that explains the difference. Here’s the link. STOP GOING TO CHURCH WK 1
#2. Prayer. Prayer doesn’t have to be strange and full of confusion. It’s a conversation between you and God. If you’re new to this whole faith concept and don’t really understand prayer (You’re not alone. I still don’t understand it completely.) here’s a blog series we wrote about earlier this year. Prayer Blog
#3. Reading the Bible with a group of people helps you build community and understand the Bible. This next one could be considered two separate indicators but at RE.THINK Church we believe the best way to do these two steps is together. Each Wednesday night we have groups of men, women, and students that gather and discuss what we call our S.O.A.P. journals for the week. Each person reads the previously scheduled reading schedule and follows S.O.A.P. We make these groups open to everyone. We invite skeptics who don’t follow Jesus yet. We invite questions and doubts. We don’t shy away from the tension that this could create. We believe that an appropriate amount of tension is a good thing.
So how could you personally apply this? Start by answering honestly. Are you going to church or are you connected? Are you looking for a way to contribute or are you more concerned with what you get out of attending church?
Are you God and the power of God directly through prayer? We don’t need to pray through someone or ritualistically. We can access God’s directly through prayer. Are you? How often are you praying?
Are you applying the truths we find in the Bible? Are you connected with others who are reading and applying the Bible as well? Do you support each other WHEN life throws you curveballs?
Following these steps might help you understand if you’re putting yourself in position to mature. It’s kind of like a sailor having to adjust the sails to catch the wind and gain momentum. We have to position ourselves and our habits and routines to capture the wind of the Holy Spirit to gain momentum in the maturing process.
Photo by Blake Guidry on Unsplash
Let’s play a game. For whatever reason, you’ve made the decision to attend church again for the first time in a very long time, maybe ever. Perhaps you’ve fallen on some rough times and are seeking some encouraging advice. Maybe you've recently had a child and you believe that faith is an important aspect for children. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to start looking for a church to attend.
The important question you may ask yourself is “HOW DO I KNOW I FOUND THE RIGHT CHURCH?”
I grew up attending church every week and even went to college to become a pastor. I served as a pastor for five years until I simply gave up on going to church. I was frustrated beyond explanation with the hypocrisy of the leaders. I was frustrated with how irrelevant the churches I served in were. They seemingly didn’t care about the community we lived in. So in 2006, I walked away from the church. I found it easier to love God and love others and not attend church. I would listen to messages online and that seemed to be great for me.
Eventually, my wife and I decided we should attend church for the sake of our children. So we started the process of looking for a new church. We really didn’t know what we actually wanted, but we definitely knew what we didn’t want.
During that time, I remember thinking “this is a nightmare”. It was so difficult to find a place where we felt like we belonged and wanted to be a part of.
So, in this blog, I want to address what to look for when you’re searching for a church. I asked for some help from friends and people I know who recently searched for a new church to attend.
I hope this helps.
Mike and Tammy looked for a church where the mission of the church was Christ-focused and outreach was a theme. They wanted opportunities to connect with others outside the Sunday morning experience as well.
In the weekend service itself, they were seeking engaging speakers who were theologically sound with quality music as part of the worship experience. Their children are grown adults, but they still understood that healthy, quality children’s programming that involved parents and families throughout the week was crucial.
Mike and Tammy also wanted to feel at home when they walked in.
The church they decided to attend and to get involved with checked all of the boxes.
This particular church is one of the most influential churches in America.
My friend, Tristen, was invited to attend a church by a friend of hers. It was important to have an outlet of hope. Being in the LGBT community, she previously felt unwelcome in church. The church she attends now offers hope. She told me, “This church breaks the Bible down into nuggets of information that I can literally walk out of the door with and apply to my life that day. They also talk about real stuff...depression, substance abuse, insecurities, loneliness, family issues, etc. They just make you feel like you are accepted and welcome. It pumps you up so much on a Sunday that is carried for the entire week.
Prior to this church, Christianity always interested me but the environment of the church I grew up in didn’t ignite anything inside of me to feel passionate about Jesus. It was an environment of a vengeful God where things were very black and white (right/wrong) versus an environment that celebrated a loving, forgiving and fatherly God.”
My friends, Gary and Kim, wanted to go to a church that made them feel welcome and RE.THINK Church was it. Kim said, “RE.THINK is our home now. I love Marc and Heather for everything they have taught me and have done. I feel that everyone should experience what RE.THINK has to offer at least once.”
Let’s go back to the game we mentioned at the beginning, “HOW DO I KNOW I FOUND THE RIGHT CHURCH?” What should you look for?
We as humans need to feel welcomed and accepted. We should attend a church that makes us feel welcomed and accepted as we are.
The message, preaching or teaching portion of the service should help us understand the Bible (The Bible is the collection of ancient writings that are God inspired. Followers of Jesus read the Bible to determine truth). The person giving the message should also help with the application part of the Bible. It’s important that clarity and application be part of the message. It’s through the message that God moves people to a point of changing their desires. A true transformation that happens is a result of God changing the desires we as humans have. This happens when a person understands the clarity of the Bible and how to apply the Bible to their own lives. All three churches mentioned are churches that have goals to clearly teach the Bible and help people apply the truths found in the Bible.
Find a church that you’re able to ask questions even the tough questions. The leadership of the church should be able to answer what the mission and vision of the church is, what are the values of the church. Church Leadership shouldn't shy away from tough conversations, or uncomfortable topics. You should have an avenue to ask the questions about faith, life, and purpose.
Lastly, the importance of ‘outward and next’ should be a focus of the church leadership. People who aren’t part of the church should benefit from the mission and ministries of the church. Emerging generations such as toddlers, elementary students and all the way through high school should be a focus. How do you know this is a focus? Every church might say these are important, but there’s a way to find out. Like most things, if money and energy are spent on emerging generation ministries such as children and students ministries, the church values emerging generations. If time and resources are allocated to serve in the community, the church has an outward focus.
If you know anyone who is looking to reconnect with their faith or connect with faith for the first time in their life, pass this along. They might just need a safe place to explore their faith.
Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash
WHy a blog?
RE.THINK Church values being a church that is casual. Casual Church goes far beyond the way we dress, it's more about we expect people to take this journey at their own pace. We are here to journey with everyone. So we've created a blog so people can check us out before they show up for a service.