Day: April 7, 2012

The Cross That Sets Us Free

Colossians 2:13,14 “…you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

I took this photo on my iPhone the other day, just passing the Albert Pub in Didsbury and noticed how they’d put up a warning sign to deter parkers, on a cross.

Ever been clamped? I got my car clamped once – and I could tell the guys who did it just loved their job! Grrr… it was so frustrating to be stuck like that, subject to punishment. Not able to go where I wanted. Captive! I didn’t have the money to pay them and contested it vigorously because (unlike this one) the sign wasn’t clear or even visible from where I parked.

Finally, a friend agreed to pay half and then I paid the vultures who held my car, and was free!

I was so struck by how this pub has put their notice on a cross like this.

Jesus’ final shout of triumph from the cross on Good Friday was ‘It is finished!’ which we could translate as ‘paid in full!’ That’s what this friend did so we could be free – not stuck. He paid the penalty though he’d done nothing wrong – and it’s not paid with money but the most precious substance in the universe, his own blood.

The good news of Easter is you don’t have to be stuck anymore. He who the Son sets free, is free indeed!

CONNECT to GROW

Most people are not ashamed of Christ, but they are ashamed of their church. If you’re begging people to invite their friends, you have to stop and think. If they’re not naturally doing it, why not? We’d better self diagnose.

CONNECTIVITY is the key to church growth.

I’m still detailing some of the learnings from Richard Reisling’s visit here.

He said connectivity is ‘your abililty to connect with me and show me you have something to offer of solutions to what I’m looking for in life.’

Related to the previous post, people will come in and think, ‘What can I learn from them about organising my life and priorities, if they can’t even organise parking?’

The apostle Paul wrote, ‘I became LIKE them, to WIN them.’ What does that mean?

It means, he was thinking, “How do I get into their mindset to connect with them? People who are feeling weak or strong, those who are rich or poor, Jew, Greek.” He owned the connection issue that it’s my responsibility to get into their HEADS – so the gospel can get into their HEARTS. I have to show I understand people in various life settings. (By the way Frank Green did a great job of this yesterday in his Good Friday 20 talks back to back! I’ll be putting some of the content from my notes on that on the blog soon and the talks themselves will be available from the Ivy iTunes podcast feed).

Interestingly, Paul also categorised people – knowing  that people think in similar ways to the groups they’re in. There are common perspectives we hold. And he adapted to meet them, right where they live.

For example – imagine you get invited to watch a football match. (Reisling talked baseball but who knows anything about that?)

You’re not into football. You don’t what to go, but someone asks and eventually you go – initially right up at the back and high up in the cheap seats at the top – to check it out. You’re not going to commit too much (at those prices!). But then by the end of the match you have to admit you kind of liked it enough to go some other time. and you do. Once or twice.

After a while you start to really into it – buy a scarf, and to get a better view and atmosphere you go down a few levels of seats, maybe buy a season ticket. (This is exactly what happened to a friend of mine who ended up joining a cult called Chelsea).

After more time someone notices you’re ‘into football’ and maybe you get invited to play in an amateur football team – because now we like football. We’re committed. We even get on the field!

Church leaders need to ask ourselves, ‘What am I doing today – perhaps especially in the services we put on, to connect to the people out there in the far back seats, just checking this out? What’s going to talk to them? What’s their next step closer to the field of play.’ Don’t talk to everyone like they’re already committed. I was in a device recently where the preacher kept referring to ‘We Christians,’ and I wondered how that would feel to a visitor not yet ready to class themselves as a Christ follower. We don’t connect by having the same message to everyone.

Jesus didn’t preach the ‘eat my flesh and blood’ message to the 5000. He fed THEM bread and fish. Then he  sharpened down the challenge, to those who were ready for it. There were messages for the crowd, the core, the committed.

In churches we have to challenge people appropriately to the level they are at. We have to reach and connect to people at their particular level. We have to have a heart for every level. We need to have a shallow end – graded and going to a deep end. Why? So people know, ‘I can bring someone,’ then trust grows. Connectivity creates the easy invite.

We have to be simple enough to understand – and powerful enough to change lives. Then people will want to tell their friends and we won’t have to ‘market.’ The truth is, if you’ve had a life changing experience with Christ you want everyone to know about it.

Most people are not ashamed of Christ, but they are ashamed of their church. If you’re begging people to invite their friends, you have to stop and think. If they’re not naturally doing it, why not? We’d better self diagnose.

Maybe they’re embarrassed of the pink and lavender decor. The yelling mad lady with the flags? The 2 hour sermons. There are reasons!

So ask, ‘What’s the purpose of this service?’

Ask, ‘Who’s going to be there?’ Shape to fit. Be intentional about what we’re doing. Plan for who God’s going to bring! God will order your steps – IF you have a plan.

So – back to the stadium analogy – how do you minister on the different levels?

Upper stands – you INSPIRE them. CHALLENGE them. When you’ve earned the right. They need… a glimpse of hope. (Yeah, I’ll give that church a try, what’s the worst that could happen?).

Lower stands – TEACHING & TRAINING. How to understand. ‘Here’s how we do this.’  It’s about coaching them into being able to PLAY (not just in church settings, the ‘game’ is the world they inhabit).

Playing the game. DEVELOP. Teaching and coaching so players learn to specialise and play to their strengths.

If we do this, people can then have confidence about what they bring their friends to. We can say, ‘If you want this – come to this. if you want this – this is for you to bring a friend…’ And people will bring their friends along.

You CAN do this in one service. Jesus did it to 5000. You just have to be aware that there are people at different levels and you have to engage at all those levels.

Finally – we get the congregation we preach to.

if you preach to only the ‘DEEP’ people, that’s all you’ll get.

if you connect only to the people on the edge – that’s who you’ll get.

Connect!