Someone Recently Asked Me

About a month ago I was asked by someone whom I mentor and who helps to lead a church I currently work with: “What do you currently do that by the end of 2014 you no longer want to be doing?” That is a good question. It was one that I believe is a “God question.” I have taken that question seriously and have been thinking about it daily since I was first asked it. Not a day has gone by that I have not thought about it. When I turn my iPhone on in the morning (which I do as soon as I wake up – even before my first coffee) the question is there on the screen. The calendar for every day has the question recorded in bold letters at the top of the daily schedule.

What do I do now that, by the end of 2014, I no longer want to be doing? Well, this is something I have been more than thinking about – I have been praying about it. It is a question that I believe is directly from the heart of the Lord to me. Added to the question is a spiritual sense that a number of things are about to change and that much that is now so much a part of my routine will soon not be on my schedule or agenda. I have been sensing a major move spiritually, relationally and in other ways. A major life shift. I am even considering a physical move to facilitate what is happening and will be happening in the spiritual realm.

Add to this that last Sunday (the first Sunday in February) was the 33rd anniversary of the local church I founded and of which I am still a part of. Add to this an increasing demand on my trans-local ministry; add to this the need to make some major changes so that I can fulfill some recent prophetic words over my life; add to this a hunger to see something significant happen spiritually in His Church in North America; add to this a dissatisfaction with what I see as Church today; add to this too many self-centered believers who are content, satisfied, safe, secure (or, at least, think they are), wealthy (by most of the world’s standard), and who are not serious about God or the task of the Church to go into all the world and seek and save the lost; add to this people who don’t worship in spite of coming to a worship service – and you have a receipt for some massive changes.

This is what I know – that I am no longer willing to walk with those who are “playing church.” Those who say they believe and love Jesus but don’t obey Him – and so are not praying for the lost nor talking to them about Jesus. I am no longer willing to walk with those who enjoy being among the top 5% of the world’s population when it comes to income and spending power but refuse to tithe. I am tired of a self-serving people who come to get and not to give. People who claim to believe in God but live like He does not exist. Believers who are picking and choosing what they want to believe and discarding whatever they find uncomfortable or not to their liking. People who never say “thank you” and apparently take the Church and all those who do things without pay and without thanks totally for granted. Like they deserve to be served and we should be honored to be allowed to serve them.

My biggest “I am fed up with” would be the people who take up my time and yet don’t tithe and are not making even a decent offering let alone a substantial one – yet want you there to answer their texts, pray with them, teach them, lead them, run the administrative side of things, have coffee with them and listen to their issues and concerns, disciple them, mentor them, and come up with a powerfully good sermon weekly. They expect you to do all this and somehow magically come up with the funds needed to both run the Church that they are a part of and benefiting from as well as feed and care for your family in the right, Christian manner – yet never wondering how you are to pay all your bills on time and in full. In fact, not even having a concern about it at all.

So, I could go on and on but the blog is long enough. The question I am pondering and prayerfully considering: What do I now do that I don’t want to be doing at year-end 2014? Answer: Care for thankless, disobedient, rebellious, self-centered, me-focused, demanding, consumer Christians who are not taking seriously God’s Word, are not maturing in any way that can be noticed, who ignore most if not all of God’s commands in the New Testament, don’t really care about others, have not won anyone to The Lord in years, come to church when they feel like it (or attend religiously every Sunday), give if there is some left over after the speciality coffees are bought for the home Keurig, and having given little to nothing – demand a lot.

And I am not waiting until the end of 2014 to remove the burden of this form of babysitting and playing church from my life. I didn’t sign up for this. It is not part of the call of God on my life. I am not interested in wasting more time in this arena. It is time for me, at least, to get on with the work of the Kingdom. And, that is exactly what I am planning to do.

The Radical Hospitality That Jesus Risked

Guest blogger – Thom Schultz

They tell me I’ve missed the point of the gospel, I’ve mistaken Jesus’ message.

Their chastening has come when I’ve shared our findings of why the majority of Americans avoid church. The most frequently mentioned reason: church people are judgmental. We suggest in our book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore that the church may be more effective if it would emulate Jesus’ practice of loving acceptance.

That sets them off. Even when I explain that Jesus’ acceptance didn’t necessarily mean endorsement of a person’s behavior, they still insist I’ve besmirched the essence of the gospel.

In a radio interview recently I explained that Jesus led with love. That provoked the radio host. “Repent!” he shouted. “Excuse me for interrupting you, Thom. But that was Jesus’ first words.” He went on to defend the church’s judgmental reputation as a good thing.

This man represents a widespread school of thought–that the overwhelming focal point of scripture, of Jesus’ ministry, of God, is condemnation. This view seeks to grovel in the problem, rather than embrace the solution, the grace. Yes, Jesus called us to repent, to turn from our sin. But wasn’t his big purpose to love us, to call us to follow him, and to achieve something we cannot–to redeem us from our sin?

We often think of John 3:16 as the succinct summary of Jesus’ mission. But the very next verse clarifies what his mission was not: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” So where do some get the idea that Jesus centered his ministry on condemnation? When I think of Jesus’ encounters with the “unchurched” of his day, I see him leading with love and acceptance. Think of the woman caught in adultery. He led with love, defended her against those who condemned her, and then asked her to sin no more. With Zacchaeus, he led with love, accepted him, exhibited something we call “Radical Hospitality,” then inspired him to change his deceitful ways. With the thief on the cross beside him, Jesus led with love and invited the man to join him in paradise.

Who judged Jesus’ acts of love and acceptance as unacceptable? The religious leaders, who led first with judgment. Jesus did not find their judgmental approach particularly effective either.

At a recent workshop, a religious leader approached me and said, “Okay, I hear you about this Radical Hospitality. But when do we confront people who are living in sin?”

I explained that we’re called to follow Jesus’ example. Lead with love and acceptance. Once we’ve established a relationship, then we can invite people to dig into the scriptures with us, and we can allow God to convict us and inspire each of us to turn from our sins. And thank God for the gift of forgiveness, made possible through Jesus’ loving sacrifice.

So what do you say? What’s the real point of the gospel? And what’s our job? And what’s God’s job?

This article appeared on HolySoup.com . December 10, 2013. Thom Schultz is an eclectic author and the founder of Group Publishing and Lifetree Café. Holy Soup offers innovative approaches to ministry, and challenges the status quo of today’s church

The Fifth Step Of Effective Outreach

We have been looking at reaching out to others as a way of life. Jesus called us to “be” a witness for Him and not just to “do” witnessing. So, our lifestyle, our words, our attitude, our actions must all reflect Him and help others to know the love of God as found only in Christ Jesus.

I took the liberty of using the word ‘faith’ and letting each letter stand for a comment about effective outreach. So far we have seen:
F = Find someone to talk to. God is giving you opportuneness daily to touch lives with His love
A = Assume that they like you. To do this you must first like you and then give others opportunity to come to know and like you
I = Initiate conversation freely, frequently, and naturally. Be authentic – people can quickly spot a phoney T = stands for “transition the talk to Jesus.”

The “H” is that we need to “Honour the soul you desire to reach.” We need to recognize that we are not out selling Jesus to potential customers who may or may not want to purchase Him. We are not trying to build a networking scheme or collecting notches on our Gospel gun. We are out to rescue souls and lives that are made in God’s image but that are lost, alone, and without God in the world. It is about placing a high value on the price that Christ paid to win the lost and realize that there must be something so valuable to God about each soul we seek to reach.

Regardless of how riddled with sin, struggle or dysfunction a person may be, we seek to redeem and honour the soul God has called us to reach. The best way to “honour” someone is to share with them the way, the truth and the life Jesus offers. Compassionate conversations, of course, help us to do just this.

So, the question is: When the opportunity to be a witness comes your way, will you be ready to respond to it in FAITH?

The Fourth Step Of Effective Outreach

We are looking at one way of reaching out effectively to those who are close to us – family, friends, work associates. We have been looking at the word ‘faith’ using the letters to head up our outline for this short series of teaching blogs.
F = Find someone to talk to. God is giving you opportuneness daily to touch lives with His love
A = Assume that they like you. To do this you must first like you and then give others opportunity to come to know and like you
I = Initiate conversation freely, frequently, and naturally. Be authentic – people can quickly spot a phoney

The “T” in the word ‘faith’ stands for “transition the talk to Jesus.” I had a mentor for many years who taught me how to do this. He also said that if you have not done this in the first 20 minutes of a conversation you won’t manage to do it no matter how long you continue to talk with the person. I have found this to be true now over many, many years.

To move the conversation towards Jesus you need to realize that outreach is not an argument, it is a conversation that always ends in an invitation. In sharing our faith it is important to remember that we are called to be witnesses, not prosecuting attorneys. We are witnesses to what Jesus has done for us and what He has done for the whole world through His birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Sharing Jesus with people involves sharing His grace and truth with them. Compassionate conversation often creates a place where people del free to share their challenges, their struggles, and their needs. These become opportunities not only to share Christ, but to practice His ways of love, concern, and healing in serving.

This step means we are focusing on Jesus as He is the only genuine focus of Christian outreach. We are simply witnesses to Him and to what He has done for us and for the whole world. The most essential part of that kind of conversation is not found in your eloquence, but rather in our sincerity and passion.

Of course, you will need to be able to present the Gospel of the Kingdom in a number of ways. Then you have more than one canned or packaged method of sharing the good news. I learned a new one (I have over 20 ways to present the Gospel) the other day. Let me share it (it is not mine originally but I am adopting it)…
Jesus says:
I’m going to leave my place
I’m going to come to your place
I’m going to take your place
And then we are going to go back to my place!

Tht’s great isn’t it. It is so simple and easy to remember. It is clear and avoids all the religious Christianese we often use to explain the good news. You can use it with any person regardless of their age. I have found that the simplest ways of sharing Christ are always the best way. An entire conversation about the gospel can be wrapped around those four simple statements.