Archive for the ‘Community’ Tag

Is Serving enough?   Leave a comment

At our church we are  beginning an extensive discussion of our values. This was prompted by a podcast from Craig Groeschel, along with the realization that 2017 will be our 10th birthday. This significant milestone provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the past and look to the future. Our observations of our church currently indicate that it is a  healthy and an interesting and exciting place, one where we can confidently invite others. However we recognize that we are, for the most part, “insiders” and so biased. In addition we lack clarity on the “why” of our current  perceived well being, hence the need to articulate, not just the values we would like to have, but more importantly the one others would identify in our activities and behaviors.

In the course of this discussion we listed ” service” as an important value. As I thought about this I wondered if “service” alone was sufficient to express our value. After all multitudes of people , people of faith and no faith would say that serving others and community involvement was important to them and for everyone service is often hard, inconvenient and even painful.

However if  we list “service” as a value for our church family perhaps we  need to dig a little deeper to describe the uniqueness of Christian service. As I pondered this I remembered that Jesus himself said the he came “not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45  This struck me in a new way with the emphasis on the first and last parts “not to be served” and “give his life …”. If we are to follow our Savior’s example then the special qualities of our service are not what, we do but how and why we do it. In seeking “ not to be served” and ” to give” we act solely in response to the amazing sacrifice of love made for us by Jesus. We do this joyfully and at the expense of our our own wants and desires because, once again, this was the pattern that He gave us.

This is important because it provides a distinct contrast to what Lyons and Kinnaman (Good Faith – Being a Christian when Society thinks you are Irrelevant and Extreme) describe as the “new morality of self fulfillment.” Tragically  the prevailing cultural values are leaking into the Christian community. Recent research indicates that more than 60% of “practicing Christians” agree  with statements that “the highest goals in life are to enjoy it as much a possible’ and ” to be fulfilled in life you should pursue the things you desire most.” Serving others can fall within either of these objectives. However as Christians we are called to serve because He served and sacrificed for us. To do so we must frequently and joyfully set aside our own desires. So how then should we express the value of service in a way that is uniquely applicable to followers of Jesus… any suggestions?

 

Zebra Bag?   Leave a comment

What is “The Zebra bag”? Recently I was asked why my blog had such a strange name and I realized that an increasing number of people associated with New Life Christian Fellowship, let alone others, had no idea how the name  originated. It was suggested that I record the story for perpetuity. So here it is!  In 2005 I was invited to become the interim pastor at Vista del Mar Baptist Church in Pacifica. I accepted, and on my first visit to preach I was informed that one of the features of their Sunday morning service was a “children’s talk”. I was not used to preparing such things and thought them (children’s messages) to be a residue of the dark ages.  I resolved to phase them out as soon as possible! However, I was unable to do this immediately so I gave some thought to how I might fulfill the requirement, at least initially. I came up with the idea to call the children forward. gather them in a circle around me while I sat on the floor and a shared an object lesson. In order to keep the object from view, until I was ready to use it I would put it in a bag with a picture of a zebra on it that I had brought back form a trip to South Africa.

zebra_lovers_art_gifts_bag-149043790282943828You have probably guessed, that became known as ” the zebra bag” (which I pronounced in the correct English Ze-bra rather than Zeeeeeebra!). Well the bag, my pronunciation, and the object lessons, took on a life of their own. Far from being phased out they became a much loved and anticipated feature of our services for a number of years! Through them I formed some of my most precious relationships with children  in our church family, who are now of course, teenagers and young adults!

It was also these conversations that God used to fulfill dream of mine that our church would be one that children felt was for them and not just a place their parents dragged them to reluctantly each weekend. It also taught me a salutary lesson that I should be careful and prayerful before  resolving to anything phase things out. I think (hope!) God was smiling as He impressed on me, somewhat emphatically, that He would decide these things, not me!  So when I began this blog “from the Zebra Bag” was a natural title. As the church grew and those children grew older the children’s conversations became less frequent and , far from rejoicing, I was reluctant to see them quietly cease to be part of our Sunday celebrations.

The bag itself was somehow was lost without trace but the stories that came from those conversations will remain part of New Life tradition for ever! So if you are part of NLCF or come and visit us you might ask one of our high school seniors to tell you a story of ” the zebra bag’!!

Posted September 11, 2015 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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Community Costs!   Leave a comment

The following is an extract from a blog (you can read the full text here). The opening describes a wonderful wedding where all aspects off the wedding were provided by the couples friends. Wonderful yes but not that unusual you might say. I agree but these thoughts that follow I believe really challenge us to think about the day to day practical meaning and cost of living the life described in Acts 4:32-35. So often when I read these verses I ask myself what would “everything in common” really look like today, I think this at least gives food for though in answering the question…

 …You see, it’s now one week on and our shoulders are still aching from the lifting and carrying of chairs, drinks, tables and amps. The photographer is still selecting and touching up photos for their album (not that the beautiful couple need it, of course). And, I would wager, that most people involved have found themselves still sneaking the odd yawn or tired glance at the clock in the last few days to see if it’s bedtime yet. 

Living in community sounds great! So Christians often look to Acts  and aspire to the type of living that “shared and sold possessions to give to anyone in need” or “had everything in common”. 

It sounds amazing, like a glimpse of heaven. Yet we often stop short. We blame the modern pace of life, or practical issues like work, family, the mortgage. We tell ourselves: “It’s a nice idea, but we probably need to re-contextualise it for a 21st century view of community”.

And yet, in reality, I wonder if it’s just too hard and we’re too scared to admit it.

When you share or sell possessions, you decide that those things you own aren’t yours anymore and you no longer own them. Skills and talents can be the same; they belong to everyone and are there to be shared. Being together means not being elsewhere – and that can be costly. It includes being present when you are together and not caught up in emails, social media or some other phone-based pursuit. Holding everything in common means letting go of some of your own pre-conceptions, firmly held ideas and ways of doing things. It also means taking time to listen, allowing others the chance to shape the direction of your community and help point to the future. 

And so we read Acts, longingly wishing there was just a way we could get there, and perhaps secretly hoping we never have to. Saving ourselves from the hard work, late nights, tough conversations, aching shoulders – all the tough stuff really living in community might cost us.

So what do you think, does that help to make it real and are we willing to count and pay the cost?

The above is taken from a  a multi author blog entitled “threads”

Posted October 10, 2014 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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