Sunday, January 6, 2013

Touching Base! Part 193

From Here to There

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

This past Sunday I talked about where we are at as a church. It’s important that people who come to Bethel don’t just “come and go”, but come and grow, and come and know what is going on, what we are all about, how we’re doing and the opportunities we’re facing. Simply attending, being oblivious to who we are and how we are engaging with the vision is simply a violation of what it means to be part of the body of Christ. We want informed people, committed to the vision, contributing to the dialogue and engaging in the work of the local church. So here are four statements that may help you understand how we are doing, four statements that will help you explain to a complete stranger what Bethel is all about.

Married to the Vision, Dating the Methodology
Get this one wrong and you can quickly destroy a church or an organization. Far too many churches have married the methodology and thus died a slow death into irrelevancy.

Our vision statement is, “Responding to the Heart of God; Transforming the Heart of the City, the Nation, and the World.” It’s rooted in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20. The vision answers the question, “where are we going?” and it’s not negotiable. How each individual church expresses it will be unique, and demographics as well as resources will impact the uniqueness of each gathered church, but the overall vision is the same.

However, methods will come and go, i.e. the tools that help a church carry out that vision. On Sunday I talked about how some methods could be compared to a train or a boat, a race car or an airplane. All four represent different means of transportation, getting from point a to point b. Likewise in the church, different ways of fulfilling, attaining the vision will come and go. For a season, a church may determine that the race car is the best way of pursuing the vision. But as seasons change, the race car might be traded in for a speed boat or a train. Methods come and go.

What happens when churches or organizations institutionalize a method?
What can happen to the vision?
What are some of the unhealthy reasons we hang on too long to methods and tools that have become outdated?

Mark Batterson has said....
  • Somewhere along doing ministry we lose our (pray filled) imagination.
  • We stop doing ministry out of imagination and begin doing it out of memory (methods that we have always embraced)
  • We stop creating the future and begin repeating the past.

“Unhealthy method” conversations often start like...
“This is the way we’ve always done it...”
“What might so-and-so think if we stop doing, or start doing or don’t use... anymore…?”
“So-and-so donated such-and-such and if we stop doing this or using this, so and so will be very upset that we don’t do or use such-and-such anymore…”

The example I used on Sunday of a change for Bethel in this area has to do with our yearly missions fundraising banquet entitled Bethel Bear Your Brother’s Burden Banquet. Got any examples of methods that once worked but are no longer as effective? Corporate examples might be interesting to consider at this point as well.

Falling Forward Moves Us Onward
Think about family and work. Did any of you grow up in a family where failure meant humiliation, embarrassment and ridicule? How about work? Ever worked in an environment where failure was villainized? What did that do to the morale of the office? How did that impact the employees’ willingness to step out and take risks?

Discuss the following quote. What does this say about failure?

“The reason I’m doing the best work of my life right now is because
I have fifty years of mistakes telling me what to do.”

What kind of culture do you think Jesus nurtured with His disciples? Read Matthew 18:10-14. Do you think that Jesus, when He finds the lost sheep, beats it or nurtures it? Then note the next passage v15-17. Note that the heart of the Good Shepherd is for restoration, healing, falling forward! The heart of God is for us to learn from mistakes and move onward, upward and forward. Know any other texts that illustrate this? This lines up with our value of Solidarity - being FOR people, being WITH people.

At Bethel we are committed to being a learning environment. Organizationally we are committed to keeping in step with the voice of the Spirit, stepping out and trying new things, all for the sake of the vision God has given us. As we step out we will stumble and fall, but we believe that the failure will make us wiser than if we had never tried.

On Sunday I used our third service and partnerships as two examples of stepping out, learning and falling forward. In both of these examples we are learning, growing, stumbling and advancing.

What has been your most profitable failure to date in life? How key was having a healthy organization, team or group of friends around you?

Facts are our Friends.
Not everyone believes this. One reason we ignore the facts is because facing the facts can mean having to do a lot of work. Think of the life and words of Jesus. Jesus stated the facts time and time again and called people to align their lives with the facts. When He confronted the Samaritan women at the well, the fact of her marital mess was something Jesus did not shy away from. Remember when Jesus listed the woes of the Pharisees? If they faced up with the woes, there would be a lot of work to do! How about in Matthew 7 where Jesus talks about judging? The fact of the plank in our own eye was calling the listener to deal with the tough stuff in his/her own heart first. Work to be done!

As a board of elders the key fact that we are working on at Bethel these days is discipleship. In our vision statement it says that we are to be a people responding to the heart of God. This is to be the posture of a disciple - listening, malleable, growing, changing, under authority, obeying. As a board we feel that we must do better in this area of helping people move from exploring Christ to being Christ-centered. Our business is not to help people stay where they are but challenge them to move on to where they need to be. This fact about our church, the fact that we need to do better, has shaped our board’s agenda and focus for the last several months and will shape and be a priority on our meeting agendas for the foreseeable future. We are reading, discussing, praying and moving towards working on outcomes, action steps and implementation. Work to be done!

What fact is shaping your life these days?

Prayerfully Engaged.
“The danger is that the longer a movement exists, the easier it can be to rely on past success or well-developed structures and to be less dependent on the radical intervention of a supernatural God.“

Hudson Taylor said “We are a supernatural people, born again by a supernatural birth, kept by a supernatural power, sustained on a supernatural food, taught by a supernatural Teacher from a supernatural Book, and led by a supernatural Captain in right paths to assured victories.”

Prayer is a posture of the heart (corporate and individual) that reminds us that what we do is dependent on what God does in and through us.

On Sunday we introduced Move, a prayer initiative that will start on February 10th and take us right up to Easter. We want to invite you to participate in this prayer focus as we seek God to work among us and through us as we bless city, nation and world.

Take some time to pray about what has been discussed. Feel free to come and talk to me about any of the points mentioned. As we often say, dialogue helps bring clarity.

Mark Kotchapaw

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