Authenticity In Church Culture
February 12, 2020
This week Robert and Flavia, Monica and Ed, and Liz and I are in sunny Florida at a church conference. The theme of the conference is the building of the church. The conference organizers desire to help church leaders and members take back ideas that have made them successful to their own congregations.
The church is called Christ Fellowship Church and it is nothing that I have ever seen before. It is a true mega-church of 25,000+, with multiple campuses, the main one in Palm Beach Gardens where the conference is being held. Monica and Ed were introduced to this church by none other than our own in-house Rabbi, Elliot Spar. Elliot has a true gift for making contacts and friends.
Right off the bat I can say that I wasn’t sure this was right for me. All the dozens of staff that greeted me on the way in the building (called the Dream Team by the pastor) seemed way too cheerful and happy, almost unnaturally so. While I think our church is friendly and welcoming, it seems that it is a bit more authentic. But as the sessions started, I soon realized that some of the information being presented was rich and powerful and is very helpful in cultivating my own ideas about establishing vision. One idea that was especially helpful to me as a church leader is the concept of understanding your church’s culture. MPC definitely has a church culture, influenced by many things and I look forward to exploring how to build that out with Robert and the other leaders in the church.
For example, this authenticity that I spoke of earlier is a big part of our culture at MPC. The humble, caring affection we share together may not always be perfect, but is always authentic. If there is one thing we do right, it is to care for each other out of our own individual brokenness. When broken people care for broken people, they are by definition being authentic. So, I sit here in Palm Beach Gardens feeling very thankful for all of you, who continually inspire me with your humble selflessness and genuine kindness.
As far as Christ Fellowship goes, the Lord brought correction to my heart as the day proceeded. Just because they are being expressively upbeat doesn’t mean they are inauthentic; it just means they are wanting to make people feel welcome.
So, as I walk around this gigantic, extremely impressive facility,
strangers keep looking at me and telling me that they are happy I’m here.
I think I’m happy to be here as well.
Ken & Dolores Wetmore (Pastor Robert's parents)
Volunteers are needed to prepare food for Coffee Hour.
There is a sign-up sheet for Coffee Hour in the parlor.
It's Difficult Making It Easy
February 5th, 2020
It’s difficult making it easy. There is this tension in the Christian Life. The call to give up everything and follow Jesus appears to be too difficult and a heavy burden. It is only for the extremely devoted. But Jesus said, “Come to me,all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). It seems that my struggle and restlessness to give my all in my spiritual life is needless.
Yet it seemed difficult for the rich young ruler:
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”Jesus looked at him and loved him.“One thing you lack,”he said.“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor,and you will have treasure in heaven.Then come, follow me.”At this, the man's face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth.Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,“How hard it is for the richto enter the kingdom of God!”(Mark 10:20-23).
Jesus also called others to follow without looking back, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead”(Matthew 8:22). It is difficult to leave behind what we think makes life work.
The Apostle Paul seems to capture best what it means to have a life given over to God. “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). One of the better biographies of this servant of God is entitled, Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free by FF Bruce. It is an apt description of his life and his understanding of being in Christ. It is hard to give up our right to our lives and our wisdom to fully embrace Jesus as Lord, but that is where the great freedom lies.
Some of us carry loads we are not meant to carry, and we are overburdened. We do not have the lightness and joy of belonging to the Lord. We are not exhibiting His meekness and humility because we have a yoke that is ours alone and not one given over to the Lord. The burden can be light because He is carrying the load.
Joy, ease, and rest is available now and not just in eternity. Trials enable us to continue to give our lives over to the Lord. Jesus emptied himself not only on the cross but in his life. He submitted himself to his Father while on earth. He said he only does what the Father tells him to do, and his teaching is not his own. He did not use his status as God for his own advantage but in order to become a servant of all.
Augustine said “We are restless until we find our rest in Him.” There is work for us to do, but He fits us for that –without stress. He is not relaxing demands, but giving us the power to fulfill them. Dying to self brings great freedom. Jesus also said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children”(Matthew 8:22). Little children that depend on loving parents are not stressed. We need to be like little children.