I grew up attending church, my mom made sure of that. I attended all the Sunday School classes I had, not out of a desire to, but because my mom made sure it was a priority and I didn’t really argue about that. I just did it. That doesn’t mean that I actually bought in or followed Jesus. I attended, had the knowledge and was exposed to Jesus, the Bible, and churchy things.
I remember people in my church always telling me I should read my Bible. I had no clue why I didn’t really see any need to do so. My main objectives at that point in my life included defeating Contra, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out (without getting knocked down at all) biking all around my hometown. Reading an ancient book that didn’t read like any other kind of book I’ve ever seen wasn’t on my priority list. It wasn’t even close.
So I ignored them! I challenged these people I know I frustrated these individuals some of them were patient, most of them were downright mad. Like really mad. As a kid, I set a record for making the most Sunday School teachers quit. The record I’m still pretty proud of!
When I actually made the decision to follow Jesus when I was 16 years old I remembered ‘you should read your Bible’ but really had no clue as to why. So I started asking leaders I knew why should I read my Bible. One of the leaders I asked was finally honest and told me because that’s what our pastor tells us to do.
After a couple of weeks of this, I started reading my Bible… well, because I gave into peer pressure and because the people I asked seemed happier, more centered in their lives, they were friendlier for sure. I also realized that what I had been doing with my own life for those 16 years wasn’t really panning out the way I wanted them to. I was a bitter young man full of angst for the world. So I started reading. Like most people, I started at page 1… Genesis chapter 1.
I started reading the first chapter of the Bible that God made the earth, everything in it. I came to Genesis 1:26 and stopped. Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
The Bible says that God made me in His image… I had no clue why I was made, I had no clue who I was. If I could discover more about God by reading the book that He supposedly wrote through humans (Sunday School teachers told me that much) over the course of centuries and was broken down into 2 major parts, the Old and New Testaments. If the Bible says that God made me in His image, the more I discovered of God could tell me more about myself and my relationship with God.
As I kept reading my Bible I discovered what the Bible says about God and myself. God loves me, (Psalm 86:15, Psalm 136:1,26 John 3:16, 1 John 4:19 among so many others). I knew and understood conditional love. After I kept reading the Bible the first times and realizing what it says about God loving me, I finally discovered why I should read the Bible. I wanted to know how much God loved me, I wanted to discover more about what God thought of me. Being made in His image drove me to discover more about God. I also started to discover more about who I am.
This is the beginning of a mini-series on this blog, Reading the Bible. Our goal is to help people discover the benefit, helpful tips as far as translations, how often, how much should I read, how to remember it.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
RE.THINK Church wants to help people know Jesus, experience Community and discover Purpose in 2018. We haven’t abandoned our vision of leading people into a maturing relationship with Jesus by creating a fun, casual and innovative church that unchurched people would actually want to attend. We are simply focusing on Jesus, Community, and Purpose for most of 2018.
We believe that when people know Jesus, they can’t help but love Him in return. So, we want to expose Jesus for who the Bible says He really is. We understand there are a lot of misconceptions about who Jesus is. We want to help clear the air on those misconceptions. In fact, one of our message series coming up pretty soon is “JESUS is_____.” The series is based on a book by Judah Smith called “Jesus Is _____”. We really hope people will have an understanding of who Jesus is and what He is not (not boring, not republican, most likely not white and not a killjoy). We’ll loop back into that subject throughout 2018... and beyond.
We never want people to think life must be lived alone or by their own efforts. We all should experience community. There should be a tribe we belong to and that belongs to us. I personally believe that experiencing community is one of the most important aspects of a maturing relationship with Jesus. When we are vulnerable and real with people, they can help us in ways that go beyond our understanding. Let’s be honest, it’s easier to read and even memorize parts of the Bible than, to be honest about what we’re struggling with to other people. Most of the time we paint a smile on our face even if we are struggling because we want others to believe we are having a great day. Sometimes we don’t really want to let people into our lives. It’s uncomfortable to allow others to help us when we need it, it’s not natural for us to allow others into our lives and see the struggle at times. I think it comes easily to help others, but not to allow others to help us. We are encouraged to do so though (Galatians 6:1-3) read it as the person who needs help sometimes.
Reading the Bible is crucial. Prayer is also crucial in our relationship with Jesus. Community brings it to a whole different level.
Anyone reading this who are cringing at that last paragraph, think about the early followers of Jesus who didn’t have their pocket Bibles or any Bibles at all. What did they have? They had Community. We look at our spiritual ancestors and wonder how they made it through persecution, hardships, trials, famines and no ability to participate in the marketplace, etc. It wasn’t their Bible knowledge that got them through those circumstances. It was their Community. I’m not saying we shouldn’t honor and respect the fact that we hold a copy of God’s Word in our hands. We absolutely should. People died for that to be a possibility. We should honor their sacrifice and lives. I believe that the best way to read the Bible and grasp its meaning and application for our lives is in Community.
We all have Purpose. We all have a reason for being on this planet. At RE.THINK Church, we want to help parents understand their Purpose as they lead their families. We want the college-age student, who is simply wanting to graduate, to understand how using her degree might get her the job of a lifetime where she is able to shape and influence the world. We want the middle school student to realize that his life and influence can transform his school. We want to help him realize that he is in a mission field and can be used by Jesus to transform it.
I believe that Purpose speaks more of who we become rather than what we do. Starting a maturing relationship with Jesus isn’t hard. Getting married isn’t difficult. Starting a new workout routine isn’t that difficult either. It’s staying committed that’s difficult. It’s understanding that grit not to quit is crucial to finish. Finishing develops disciplines in us to help us mature and become who Jesus created us to be, and do the thing Jesus created us to do.
Recently we sang this song in our weekend service and as we sang it the words caught me off guard. They’re simple words, but they knocked me off balance. I’ve sang these words before, but for some reason they arrested my attention.
I know it sounds strange, but it happens at times. Before I was a follower of Jesus I thought it was strange when “Jesus Freaks” would talk like this. I would mock them as if they were just falling for some strange emotional movement, now that I know Jesus and have experienced His grace, love, mercy, and His power in my life I get it.
The words of this song we sang are simple and yet so compelling. “No place I would rather be than here in your love.” “I want more of you God”.
For whatever reason the statement “I want more of you God” gripped me and I had to answer, like really answer. Do I really want more of God in my life or was I simply singing along. Ever done that? Just sang a song and not really thought about the words or the meaning?
My sons will do that at times in the car, when I ask hey what’s the song about they usually respond, “I don’t know… I just like it.” After some investigation we discover that most of the time there were parts of the song that don’t line up with our values and my boys didn’t even know it. They just went along with the current.
I want to be more present, more aware of what’s really happening. I don’t want to just simply go the motions and hope for the best. If I really want to know God more I’m going to have to give Him my attention and intentionality. I might have to eliminate things that distract me from Him in order to hear His voice.
See there’s always more of God. There’s always more to discover, know, and experience. No matter how much you think you know how much God loves you, you’re wrong. God loves you more.
If I had to be honest with myself (and you) I’ve settled for snorkeling in God’s love. I’ve only skimmed the surface in my own life. I want to know God’s love for me in ways I’ve never experienced. I want more of God. I’m done settling for less.
By the way here's a link to that song.
Parents in 365 days what do you want your family to look like? I may not know you personally, but if you’re a parent I know this about you. You love your family and the best for your kids! You want your children to mature and be happy, experience the right amount of pain and discomfort. You know the right amount that helps them mature and appreciate you, but not too much that it crushes them. You want the best for your kids!
The fact that your kids are yours is not random. The stork didn’t make a mistake and drop your son or daughter to the wrong house. It was purposeful, it was right.
With that in mind parents all want similar things for their kids. To be happy, to be responsible, to have fun, to succeed in life. We are their parents, it’s not our responsibility to make all that happen, but it is our privilege to make it possible. So again in 365 what do you want your family to look like.
As we enter a new year I want to offer 3 tips that will help you to make all that possible.
1. Disconnect to connect.
We are consumed with our wireless devices and media. In order to really connect as a family we must disconnect from our technology for parts of our day. If we don’t we run the risk of missing out of what’s right in front of us. My family and I make this happen every time we sit down to eat super. We eat super at least 3 times a week, there is no technology allowed at the table even to take the most epic selfie. We connect with each other over the course of the next few minutes but it starts by putting our devices on silent and into a basket.
2. Rewind together.
So before you think we have it all together there are weeks that the nights have literally slipped away from us. We have eaten bowls of cereal, oatmeal, banana smoothies, leftovers among other things. The food isn’t the most important part of this process, connecting is. We take time to discuss our days. Everyone present answers the following questions, “what made you happy today? What made you sad today? What made you mad today?
During this time no one can interrupt another person without a consequence like having to stand for the rest of the meal etc.
3. Eat a meal together regularly
Every goal worth making is worth achieving. In order to achieve goals two things have to be present. Intentionality and Attention. Without these two factors they aren’t goals you’ve set they are wishes. Set a goal of how many times you want to connect, and rewind together and do your best to keep it. Give it attention and inentionality. Order Chinese food and eat around your table.
Harvard studies, Oprah, among dozens of other studies have identified eating a meal together on a regular basis as the most important factor for children who were successful.
One of my favorite movies to watch is Vantage Point. It’s a great movie that unfolds over and over again. As the viewers we watch an event unfold, and once it gets to a certain point it pauses and rewinds changing vantage points from which the plot will carry on from there. We recently introduced it to our sons, Carson our youngest got so frustrated watching the movie he shouted out, “Come on and show us the rest already….”
There are events in life that we need to watch and rewatch over and over again because how crucial they are. I find myself reflecting on events in my life over and over again hoping to learn needed lessons so I don’t repeat some failures, or learn how to maximize the success that was presented.
We are in our first Christmas Season at RE.THINK Church and we are looking at the event of Jesus’ birth from different vantage points found in the Bible.
Our purpose in doing this is to capitalize as much as possible on experiencing the birth of Jesus. It’s easy and tempting to just accept the events passed down to us, but I want to encourage each of us to read and re-read the events found in the Bible these coming weeks.
If you’re familiar with the Bible you’ll find the birth of Jesus in Matthew chapter 1 & 2, and Luke 1 & 2. If you’re new to the Bible or if the Bible has always been something the confused you more than brought clarity you’re not alone! I’d encourage you to join us at RE.THINK Church as we explain this event from different vantage points as we approach Christmas.
September, 2001 was a month that will forever be burnt into my memory. I was interviewed for my first ministry position as a student ministries pastor at a church outside Anderson, IN. This was so shocking to me… the leaders of this church entrusted me with keys to the building and the actual student ministry.
They might not have liked all the things that happened in my ministry this just so happens to be setting up an obstacle course for students to go through while while myself and other leaders stood on schavelding shooting paintball guns at them like we were on American Gladiators. They might have liked the fact that a group of 3 students grew into group of 40 + and at times 50 students showed up and destroy the gym. But they actually gave me the keys of leadership when it came to this part of the church. Rev. Jerry Snyder is one of my hero’s when I look back over my life because of this.
Jerry and I had plenty of conversations about the events, games, and challenging messiness of this student ministry, but to his credit he just kept trusting with leadership in this area.
In this area I want to follow in his example. Over the past 16+ years I’ve learned that empowering leaders is part of the process of making a lasting impact as a church. This is crucial for churches. Empowering is so much more than simple delegation.
When we are delegated a task we are simply handed a task that our leader really didn’t want to do in her job responsibilities. But if that leader empowers others she moves into a completely different role.
Empowerment is where things get fun. Delegation simply implies that the task gets done; there is no thought of it getting done or accomplished in a better or more efficient way.
When we empower someone it requires we explain the “why” behind the what. I️t also means we trust the person to accomplish the task in a completely different way than we might have hoped for. It also means we are ok with things being accomplished in ways that we didn’t expect. This forces us to explain why we would do something or make a decision. If we neglect to do this, we have only delegated the task. If that is the case as a leader we must be ok with the task being done in a different manner than we envisioned.
Empowerment kind of implies a relationship between the leader and the other person. I personally haven’t seen empowerment take place void of a relationship. So if you’re a leader and want to expand your leadership capability it probably starts with your relationships. Make sure the people you work with know you and know you care for them. Invest in their lives add value to them on a personal level and professional level.
This might mean having a line item in your budget for ‘value adding’ for your staff, bring them coffee, learn their love language and make sure you communicate this ‘value adding’ part in a way they will understand. You can find more information out athttp://www.5lovelanguages.com/
Take time to explain why you make the decisions you make. Taking the time to explain to your team why you make the decisions you make helps them understand how you think, and what you value. As this takes place you’ll start to see them use this in their own areas and lives.
As a leader you have the challenge to empower others so that they can make a decision within the parameters your as the leader set. As this takes place allowing them to see the why behind the what helps them understand how you think.
80% of our church are under the age of 30. We love that statistic! We also love the fact that from the very beginning we want to empower young leaders to lead the way God has gifted them to.
This summer we held a 8 week course called Leadership Academy. We invited anyone who had graduated high school and under the age of 30 years old to learn from Heather and I and especially from each other. During this time we offered them the reasoning of how we made decisions and how they could use this not only at RE.THINK Church but also at their own workplaces. At the end of this time they got to lead a community event that RE.THINK Church would host. This might have been my favorite thing we have done as a church.
During this process I couldn’t help myself but reflect on the leaders in my story who invested in my life and leadership. I long for the day that some of these amazing talented leaders will do the same thing and remember our investment in their lives.
It’s messy handing keys of leadership off to people, but we love watching leaders lead in ways God has gifted them to!
As a church, we are walking through the concept of big CHURCH. I believe big CHURCH is what Jesus came to start. I know that seems like a strange statement to say, but let me explain.
The word the original authors used in the New Testament part of the Bible for church is ecclesia. Ecclesia means an assembly of people. I’m blown away every time I think about God trusting the most important institute of people. Doesn’t He remember how humanity has screwed things up in the past? Doesn’t He remember the crusades? Adam and Eve in the garden...they ate the fruit. Doesn’t He remember me this morning playing Call of Duty instead of doing the very thing I should have been doing? I guess maybe God looks at humanity and doesn’t see the failures as much as He sees the potential.
The concept of big CHURCH isn’t about getting butts in seats. The concept was about the biggest impact the ecclesia could have in a community, how many lives could be changed by introducing them to Jesus inviting them to be disciples of Jesus. Our view at RE.THINK is that we want to a church that invests in people and empowering people to influence and change the communities we live in.
In Acts 4 Peter and John walk into a bar…. Just kidding they walk into the temple. As they enter the temple they see a man who has been sitting there for 40 years. This man can’t walk, he’s lame. So he relies on the generosity of others to live. As they walk by Peter and John know they should do something, but they do something that no one expected. Peter grabs him by the hand and instructs him to stand up and walk. The guy follows Peter and John into the temple. As they are in the temple there’s a buzz going around. People are talking about the guy who used to sit at the temple door but is not standing in the temple.
Peter gives a sermon and at the end of his sermon, he and John are arrested by the religious leaders of the day. During their trial they instruct Peter and John to stop speaking about how they arrested Jesus, killed Him, but Jesus rose from the dead. Peter and John basically tell them, “you do what you gotta do and we’ll do what we gotta do”. They return to the church not a building, but a gathering of people.
While they are there the pray. Their prayer is so encouraging to me. It reminds me what my prayers should look like. They aren’t the focal point of their prayers….. It’s amazing.
“Now, Lord, consider the bad things they say they are going to do. Help us to be very bold when we speak your word. Stretch out your hand to heal. Do miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." (Acts 4: 29,30)
I love the fact that they ask God to help them speak for Him boldly. It’s not about protecting them, it’s not about self-preservation, it’s about how God can use them to help others understand Jesus.
If we were to make your prayers into a movie who would be the main character? Who would be the main beneficiary?
Studies show that having 4-7 intimate Christian friends and serving in a weekly ministry at a local church are some of the greatest predictors of spiritual growth. So there’s no way we could not value small groups as a church. R|C groups are a great way to help people get connected into the church, mature in their relationship with Jesus, and make deeper relationships with others. To be known and know others.
Unfortunately, if you’re like me, you haven’t always had the best experience in group settings. To me there is nothing worse than being assigned to a group of people or feeling stuck in a bad group situation. So whenever I heard about “free-market” small groups I was amazed! Someone handed me a catalogue of groups and told me I could pick from what I liked, as well as check a few out, and find out who I really could connect with... without hurting anyone’s feelings. I ended up picking a group of young adults who ate dinner together and read the Bible. Because who doesn’t like free dinner after a long day of work?
As we started the conversation about what small groups would be like at RE.THINK it was clear that we wanted our groups to reflect the personalities and interests of the people at RE.THINK. So every trimester we decided we would have a new set of groups. Leaders would get to choose what they wanted to do in their groups for the trimester. Some groups can be more interest/activity based, some follow particular studies, and some could even be more hands on out in the community serving. We decided to call them R|C Groups.
When I say that I love this style of small groups I mean I really LOVE it! Groups are fun, leaders are passionate because they get to choose something they already love, and there is freedom in getting to choose a group yourself. It’s also a place where people who maybe aren’t up for trying out church yet can feel comfortable attending, asking questions, exploring faith, and making new friends.
I’m looking forward to seeing how creative these groups get going forward. I know churches with groups that meet up to talk about God while water skiing, watching Disney movies with a bowl of popcorn, or while preparing meals for kids in other countries! Once we were challenged as a team to figure out what JWS2 meant.. Turns out it’s an acronym for a small group that was found, and it stood for, “Jesus was single 2!” Hopefully groups will never have to be an obligation but something that we love and get excited about!
So take some time and check out our current RE.THINK Groups for the fall. We hope to see you there!
(of a place) able to be reached or entered.
At one point in Jesus’ life he was sitting in a home in his hometown of Capernaum teaching people. According to the author Luke, religious people came from all over the place to hear Jesus teach. So many people were in the house that they filled the house, and even blocked the entry ways.
At the same time 5 men were desperately trying to meet Jesus, 4 men were carrying 1 man who couldn’t walk. According to Luke, the man on the mat was paralyzed. We don’t know his story, other than he couldn’t walk. In that culture though, if he was paralyzed he most likely was unemployed, he and his family had to rely on the generosity of others to pay bills, eat, live etc. It’s remarkable that these 4 other guys carried this man throughout the village finding where Jesus was. Jesus had a reputation of being able to heal people, blind people were seeing, mute people were talking, paralyzed men were walking, Jesus was able to fix broken things in people’s life in ways like no one had seen before.
When these 5 men finally found where Jesus was they went to the house, but couldn’t get because religious leaders and religious people were in the way. They didn’t even get out of the way… These religious people were so enthralled with hearing Jesus speak. So, instead of turning back or waiting these 4 guys carried their friend up to the roof of the house. This was pretty easy because there would be staircases on the outside of house in that part of the world. They removed the tiles and lowered their friend down to encounter Jesus. When they did this Jesus had a conversation with them, and in that conversation Jesus forgave the man of his sins, and fixed his broken body. He walked out of the house carrying his mat.
This quick event has shaped one of our values at RE.THINK Church. We want to be as accessible as possible. We never want to be the obstacles in the way for people to encounter Jesus. Our personal preferences do not matter when it comes to someone encountering Jesus. Even my personal preferences are up for grabs. We do our best to make sure the mission wins.
We know the message of Jesus is a pretty big obstacle for most people to overcome. So we do our very best to remove as many other obstacles as possible for people who are seeking to have an encounter with Jesus.
We see obstacles as irrelevant music, unclean buildings, non-engaging environments, unsafe environments, and yes even people at times. We’ve had several conversations with people from other churches hoping that RE.THINK Church will be a church where their personal preferences can be lived out. So, we’ve explained this value in a gentle, yet firm manner knowing that if we don’t do it now we will eventually compromise our mission.
Why RE.THINK Church part 3:
featuring new methods; advanced and original; introducing new ideas; original and creative in thinking.
I’ve been a pastor since 2001, though I’ve been involved in church to some capacity my entire life. I’ve noticed something about churches….they seem to be the same thing. Every weekend there is a service, songs are sung, someone stands up and gives a message, there’s prayer, and that’s about it. Some churches have kids ministries, some churches don’t. Some churches have youth group and some don’t.
RE.THINK Church has a goal, a mission, to be an innovative church. We don’t want to just start up a church that acts, feels, functions the same as churches we can find anywhere else. Innovation goes beyond cosmetics. I believe innovation goes down into our DNA.
RE.THINK Church resides in Lake County, Indiana. There are 220,000+ people who have no religious affiliation at all. We want to see that number eliminated. Why? Because we believe the message of Jesus is one that will change people’s lives forever. These 220,000+ individuals have stories, reasons, and beliefs that have led them to consciously checked “No Affiliation” in the census. I don’t know their story, but I want to.
I want them to know the grace and mercy I’ve found in Jesus. I want them to know the purpose, guidance, and yeah even the discipline I’ve found in Jesus. Why? Because without all the above and so many other things, my life would be lacking. More importantly, though my life would be void of grace, mercy, purpose, guidance, any form of discipline, and it would be without the assurance that for eternity, Heaven is where I’ll reside with Jesus.
Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." I think it’s time that we recognize this and live it out as a church. In my 16 years as a pastor, I’ve found a lot of churches become consumed with what church people want, prefer, and like, not what would actually make a difference to people in their own communities that have no religious affiliations.
We believe the Bible is our standard, not only does it give us the initiative to find people who don’t know Jesus and allow them to encounter Jesus in a life changing, relevant manner, but it also gives us some clear instructions on what and how to do this. Matthew records Jesus’ last instructions to His disciples as this, “ "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Teaching them to obey everything that I (Jesus) have commanded you… that’s a lot. It’s also our standard, we do our best to stay true to what Jesus instructs, when we find ourselves drifting away from that standard we stop and return to it. I’ll explain that process in our next blog.
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.