Monday, September 29, 2008

Discern Next Steps

We are now on the final piece of living in 3-D, which is all about living our lives in a way that reaches out to others. The final piece is discern the next steps. After you have Developed friendships and made connections with people who do not have a relationship with God or a church home and you have Discovered their story and really had time to get to know them, it is time to decide what to do next.
Do you invite them to worship on a Sunday morning? Do you invite them to a small group study during the week? Do you bring them to the 611 on Wednesday night? Or is it not time for those steps yet?
Discerning the next steps is about figuring out where a person will be open to receiving God's love. Some people will be fairly open quickly because they are searching and have a desire to get to know God. Other people will be less open for one reason or another they do not want to get to know God.
Part of discerning next steps will probably be trial and error. Keeping trying new ways to encourage someone to get to know God. If something works then keep on going with it. But don't get frustrated when something doesn't work, just learn from it and try something else. The goal is not necessarily to get the person over the finish line as fast as possible, but to get them to the finish line ready to receive all God has for them.
So what are some good next steps that have worked for you in trying to introduce someone to God or your church home?
I have discovered offering a look at our web page helps people check things out without even having to come to the church. It helps them feel a little more comfortable when they do show up. What other ways can we make people comfortable as they move forward in their faith journey?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Discover Stories

What a powerful worship we had yesterday. We were blessed to have many people from our congregation who were vulnerable enough to share a piece of their life story with the us. It took a lot of courage to come forward and let people know about past mistakes, abuse, and loss. I know sometimes it is easier to share our struggles with strangers, but to share them in front of your church family takes courage. Their openness can encourage us to be open as well with our stories.
First, it can show us that we need to share our stories. I believe we all need to open with those close to us and share our faults and mistakes because most people know we are not perfect, so why try to keep up the charade. Also, as we share our stories we dig deeper into our relationships with others.
Second, this reminds us of the stories of people outside the church. If people who have a church home have such difficult stories, imagine what stories will come from those without a church home. I can't believe the stories some would have to keep inside themselves because they do not have a safe place to be open about their stories. One of our responsibilities as Christians is to let people know God is listening. God hears their story and God cares about their story. And the only way people will know that is if we communicate it to them.
So get to work discovering the real stories of the real people around you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Develop Friendships

How often do you have conversations about faith or what you believe with your friends?
I was remembering back in the early days of my faith I would have nights where friends would stay overnight and we would discuss what we believed until the early hours of the morning. I am sure we did not come up with brilliant answers. We did not solve the problems of the world, but we did grow in our faith as we thought and challenged each other. We learned more about each other and how we viewed the world. It was back in the good old days.
Today I have similar conversations, but they are not late night conversations dreaming and thinking big. The conversations are more often someone coming to me for answers as an "authority" instead as equal searchers finding our way through. That is not always the case and thankfully so.
Talking about our faith and beliefs is very personal and sometimes difficult to do with friends, but it is also highly rewarding. When we make those deeper connections with others our relationship is strengthened. It opens doors to grow closer together. And really it takes your friendship to another level and builds a stronger bond with that person.
I encourage you this week to pray about those friendships you have that can take the step to the next level and have conversations about your faith.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Why Reach Out?

So I am wondering what people think about reaching out to people around us that do not have a church home? What are our reasons to reach out or not to reach out?
We reach out because we want to share something important to us with others. Because God has given us a message to share with the world and not keep to ourselves. Because we want our friends to enjoy something we enjoy. We reach out because more hands and feet can serve this world better.
We do not reach out because we are shy or hesitant to share faith. Because we want to keep our church the same and growing will make it different. Because we do not want to get into other people's business. Because we are unsure if the other person really wants a relationship with God.
These may be simplistic and they may not be all of the reasons, but they were the ones that came to my mind this morning. Are there points I missed? What other thoughts are there about reaching out?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Grace Stories

I preached on God's grace Sunday from Matthew 20:1-16. This parable of the landowner is an excellent picture of God's grace and an example of how gracious God is compared to us. We read this story and it does not sit right with us, but Jesus was content to tell this story as an example of the kingdom of heaven.
Well, we had a awesome weekend at Chrysalis. The 14 guys and 30 girls of the flight were blessed by God's gracious love. Much of the weekend is focused on God's grace and how it shows up through the love we receive from others. It is amazing to see young people receive gift after gift of God's love from people they may not know or have just met. Like my lawn mysteriously being mowed while I was gone last month. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve.
We often think we want everyone to get what they deserve, but I really think the world would not be a good place if we all got what we deserve. We receive so many things we do not deserve. Do I really deserve two beautiful children? I do I deserve my wonderful wife? Did I deserve to serve this congregation? I see those gifts in my life and I am not sure I deserve them, but I am thankful for them.
So, what are you thankful for that you may not have deserved? Do you have a grace story? How have you see the undeserved love of God in your life?