OUTREACH

TWO VERSIONS OF DODGER STADIUM

A few years ago I jumped at an opportunity to do something I hadn’t done before, or since:  I attended Dodger Stadium two nights in a row.  The Dodgers were hosting the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  One night I went and sat in the lower section—field level, the other night I sat much higher up in in the fourth level.  It soon became apparent that there are actually two versions, two variations, two varieties of Dodger Stadium.

The lower level is predictable, unchanging and safe.  It’s the same now as it was in 1962 when the Angels played there.  The upper level is unpredictable, constantly changing and even a bit dangerous.  Nothing is like it was in 1962.

With lower level tickets, you tend to get “Preferred Parking.”  Everything is laid out neatly, you bypass the traffic, park close and follow the clear signs to your section.  Upper level seats tend to come with, “General” parking.  General is a Latin word that means, “In a different county.”  The parking space is typically further away from the stadium than the freeway off ramp, you have to walk up 142 steps, unless you can find the escalator which is especially designed to be moving the opposite direction than the direction you want to go.  It seems like down is up, and up is down.   Nothing is neatly laid out.  Most folks seem pretty confused.

On the lower level they warn you gently about batted balls being hit into the stands.  On the upper level they do not warn you about anything.  If you are wearing the garb of another team, you will be heckled.  If you wear a Giants or Padres cap, you might be beaten—so you better be on the alert at all times.

On the lower level, it’s the same people every time—season ticket holders.  Everyone feels privileged because they paid good money—big money--for the experience.  In the upper levels, it’s a different crowd every time, nothing belongs to you, so you just might feel disenfranchised.  And chances are somebody gave you the ticket.

In the lower level, everyone looks the same.  In the upper level, diversity reigns.

In the lower level everything is in English.  One orders a “Dodger Dog” and a Blue Moon, which comes with the orange slice.  In the upper level, not much is in English.  There’s a good amount of Spanish and other languages that are difficult to decipher.  In the upper level your order nachos, the Vietnamese rice bowl with peanut sauce or the latest tuna poke bowl.

In the lower level, you watch the game.  In the upper level, you watch the crowd.

In the lower level, the bathrooms are spotless and clearly marked.  Pleasant bathroom attendants make you feel special.  In the upper deck you are not sure which bathroom to use, so you just hold it.

In the lower field level you can see everything.  In the upper level you are fortunate if you can see the sky.

In the lower level it appears that there are no broken people.  In the upper level, most people are broken.

In the lower level, the values are universal, and Christianity is the dominant culture.  In the upper level, there are competing values and Christianity means little.

When it comes to the church planting world, when it comes to ministry and spiritual leadership, we no longer live in a lower level environment.  Christian leaders must recognize that the world has changed and is changing. 

Consultant Bill Easum says, “It’s not a ‘National Park’ world any more, it’s a ‘Jungle’ out there.” 

It’s not 1962, it’s 2017.  Unless we are flexible, nimble and alert, we may end up with an experience that is negative for everyone.

One last contrast:  In the lower level, you can go alone.  In the upper level, you probably won’t make it if you are on your own.

That’s why Excel Leadership Network exists.

We exist to help.  When I sat in the lower level, I showed up by myself and met some people there.  When I sat in the upper deck, I had my wise nephew—one who attends dozens of games each year—accompany me.

At Excel our philosophy of ministry comes from Acts 13.  The church in Antioch was enjoying its lower-level status when the Holy Spirit spoke, “Set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work I have for them.”—Acts 13:2 (NIV)

The church kept fasting and praying and sent the two church planters out into an upper-deck world. 

And they supported them.  As leaders, the world may be changing, unpredictable and even confusing.  But if we support each other, we can have a great time and make a big impact.

Lessons from a Wedding

When my son, Tim and his fiancé, Nicci asked me to officiate their wedding, I immediately knew what I was going to say.  A few years later, when my son, Scott and his betrothed Sue asked me to perform their ceremony, I already had my talk in mind.  Recently when my son, Jake and his wife-to-be, Gionna asked me to preside at their wedding, I definitely wanted to do it, but I didn’t have a clue which direction to go with the message.  Months went by, and I still had no plan.  Even two days before the wedding, I had nothing.

So I asked Gionna’s dad, Tony Galati if he had any suggestions.  He leaned over, “That’s easy.  Tell Jake to take care of my daughter…because if you don’t…there’s some people in my family…you don’t want to meet.”  I asked the best man, Scott - a financial planner -  what he would say and he said, “Simple: get a good financial planner!”  I approached the best woman, the maid-of-honor Ally.  She thought about it and concluded, “Tell Jake, ‘Fresh flowers and clean bathrooms. He’ll know what that means.  And tell Gionna,’Be nice to people, especially before 10a.m.’”

Okay, I could use all that for my introduction.  But what was I going to say? Jake reminded me that their theme verse was an unusual one:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

—Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

That word “consider” jumped out at me, so I put together a few words on how consideration is often a big key to marriage.  When we stop and think things through, reflect, and contemplate how to help the other person, we go a long way toward solid relationships.

The talk went fine.  But then I decided to take my own advice.  I actually stopped to consider what I learned going through this wedding, and I came up a few key lessons. This is what I learned from my son's wedding:

 

1.  A Support Network Is Invaluable

 

I’m one of seven siblings, but none of my four sisters and only one of my brothers actually made it to Palm Springs for the ceremony.  Only one out of six showed up.  At first I was bummed, but then I stopped to consider, to reflect, and I noticed my family may not have been there, but the four families we started our church with years ago were there.  The people we do life with stopped everything to be there for us.  They didn’t just show up, they showed up to work!  They served and encouraged.  

I stepped back and saw that Gionna’s church family showed up to set up, decorate and put together nearly 300 lasagna dinners.  This event was an amazing reminder of the incredible need we all have for a support network. 

Excel Leadership Network exists to set apart and support high level leaders - we know how significant, how necessary a support network can be.

 

2.  Serving Makes Us Feel More Connected To the Family

After the ceremony our daughter-in-law Sue made a startling admission.  “I’ve always felt part of this family,” she admitted, “but serving at this one, being in charge of the rehearsal dinner and doing all this work makes me feel even more like I belong.”

 It was a surprise that my brother, Mike from Hawaii actually came.  He hadn’t been at a family gathering for maybe fifteen years.  I suspect it might have been a bit awkward for Mike and his wife, Yok, to re-enter family stuff.  The first thing they said was, “How can we help?”  My wife, Lori immediately asked if they could be in charge of setting things up for the hospitality room at the hotel.  They didn’t have time to feel uneasy... they were serving.

Have you ever and considered how involvement makes a huge difference?

 Our network is not top down, where the experts impart secret wisdom.  It’s about the leaders serving and helping each other.

 

3.  We Never Know How Much Of an Impact We Are Making

In Scott’s toast to the bride and groom, he recalled that when his older siblings Tricia and Tim moved out, things were a lot different with just him and Jake at home.  Scott made a remarkable decision at that time—he committed to being the best big brother to Jake he could be. 

Scott said he recently considered how upon graduating from high school, he moved south to UCLA, joined Cru, met best friends in his Bible study, and he met and married the woman of his dreams.   And then he saw Jake graduate from high school, move south to UCLA, join Cru, make his best friends in his Bible study, and meet and now marry the woman of his dreams.

Scott remarked, “You never know how much of an impact you are making.”

But then in a twist, Scott recounted that it wasn’t just him making an impact on Jake.  He revealed that Jake had been an incredible influence on him.   Scott told of how he was amazed at how Jake prayed through his decisions, cared so much for the men he was discipling, and sacrificed a great deal to be on staff at Cru.

Scott concluded, “You never know how much of an impact you are making.”

 I was stunned at how many people came up to me and Lori and thanked us for raising Jake because he had been so influential in their lives.  We had no idea of the impact.

In the Excel Leadership Network you will make a big impact, much greater than you ever know, not only on those who come behind you, but on those who ahead of you.

 

4.  Celebrate the Wins

Jake’s wedding brought many mixed emotions for Lori and me.  One nagging feeling was although our three sons are now married, our daughter, Tricia, isn’t and she would like to be.

 Lori asked Tricia how she was feeling about her youngest brother getting married before her.  Tricia immediately responded, “It’s great, we’re here to celebrate Jake!”

Too often I get caught up in what could be better and what is next, instead of actually taking the time to celebrate.  I’m not a wedding guy.  I don’t care very much about flowers and venues and centerpieces and dresses and dancing.  But as I watched people hopping and bopping and laughing out on the  dance floor, I couldn’t help consider that there’s a time for everything—and this was a time to stop and celebrate. 

Our network is about being there to support each other, but also celebrating with each other.  Before we take that next mountain, let’s pause to thank God for getting us to where we are now.

 

5.  Always Be Reaching Out

Jake and Gionna had told me a number of times that they wanted their wedding ceremony to be about Jesus more than them.  They asked me to please be clear about Jesus’ offer of forgiveness for us all—they wanted me to preach the Gospel.

So as Jake and I and all the groomsmen were standing at the front of the gathering, watching the bridesmaids and flower girls and ring bearers go through their processional, I whispered to Jake, “Are you sure you want me to give them the Gospel?”  Instantly Jake shot back, “Heck yeah I want you to give them the Gospel!” 

So during the ceremony, I explained that we’d be hearing three sets of vows that day.  First, the public, “I do,” vows that the couple makes to everyone who was gathered there that day.  Then there are the personal vows that Jake and Gionna wrote for each other.  But there’s a third set of vows in a marriage ceremony.  That occurs when the couple pledges their commitment of their lives and their marriage to God. 

When Jake and Gionna made their vows to God through communion, I asked the people present that day to do their business with God.  They could actually commit their lives to God through a simple ABC Prayer:  A, admit I need a Savior; B, believe Jesus died and rose for me to offer me forgiveness and life; and C, choose to commit to following Jesus from now on.

About an hour after the ceremony when I got a chance to say “Hi” to the bride and groom, the first words out of their mouths had to do with the conversations they each had been having at the reception with their friends who needed Jesus.

Wow, they just got married and yet instead of thinking about themselves they were thinking about spreading the message of Jesus. 

And that’s the point of our lives and of our network.  We are here to spread the message of Jesus, at all times, in season and out of season as well. 

STAGES OF REPRODUCTION

Part of what we’re about in the Excel Leadership Network is helping churches partner with and parent new churches.    Some churches are excited about the possibilities and on board with reproducing.  Others seem disinterested in church planting.  Still others find themselves in the middle of those options.

 

In working with churches and pastors over the years, I've identified some consistent stages in the life cycles of churches:

STAGES OF REPRODUCTION:

Resisting

Some churches are currently resisting reproduction.  Like couples who have decided against having children, these churches do not want to reproduce.  Church Planting expert Bob Logan uses the term “hostile” to describe how some pastors and churches respond to the idea of parenting a daughter church.  One famous pastor of a mega-church in our country once remarked, “We came dangerously close to planting a daughter church.”

Questioning

Other churches find themselves grappling with the clear Biblical command to “go forth and multiply.”  They are starting to wonder why this hasn’t been part of the natural development in their church.  They are asking questions, checking studies and beginning to realize that they do not want to be, as multiplication specialist Red Ensley put it, “a dead-end link on the chain of Christianity.”

Not Now

Many, if not most churches find themselves in the “Not Now” stage.  They realize that health leads to reproduction.  They know that they need to parent someday.  But they are caught up with other things right now.  These folks typically say things like, “As soon as we get our facility built we’ll consider a plant.”  Or, “We’re not large enough yet.”  Or, “When we get our staffing, or program, or financial issues remedied, we’ll look into it.”

One Toe In

Many churches have moved to the stage where they are actually doing something.  They might be financially supporting a church planter or two.  They may open their facilities to a church plant in their area or perhaps they’ve given gently used equipment to a new church in the region.  They have jumped into the game.

Aunt or Uncle

Other churches have moved to the point of being an Aunt or Uncle church.  They might not feel ready to parent, but they are willing to generously support a planter.  They’re having planters up front in their services and are growing in support of a church planting movement.

Godparent

Some churches have moved a bit farther along the reproduction journey.  They’ve become that special aunt or uncle - the godparent.  They are praying and giving and are available for special appeals by church plants for one-time gifts over and above previous commitments;  to send people to help out with a preview service; or to have a baby shower to buy items for a church plants nursery.  Our church in Elk Grove, Journey Church, has this special relationship with a plant back east.  We’ve told them to consider us to be a rich uncle who lives in California.

Parent

Some churches have actually moved to the point of daughter-ing a church.  Like having kids biologically, this might be a deliberate, planned, thought-out strategy.  A parent church might have the clear approach that they will give $50, 000 to $100,000 and 50-100 people to get a church launched.   Or it might be more of “an accident.”    They might only be able to give a few bucks and a few people, but they are responding to God’s personal call to them to be parents.  They may or may not be joined by another parent church, but they’ve taken responsibility to help a church get going.

Baby Machine

Some churches have had such a good experience in parenting, that they are having plenty of kids.  My four sisters have had seven kids, seven kids, six kids and four kids respectively.   And I’ve joked that they are baby-machines, constantly pregnant.   Some churches are like that - they’ve become multiplication centers.

Rapid Reproduction

And some have multiplied so much that they’ve approached becoming a denomination unto themselves.  Their kids are having kids.  Some are reproducing like wildfire, leaving a lasting legacy.

 

Churches range throughout these stages, from resistant to rapid reproduction. 

 

The application is clear:  let’s identify where we, where our church currently finds itself along the reproductive journey.  Is your church resistant?  Questioning?  Waiting?  Involved?  Moving toward parenting?  Cranking them out?

 

After identifying where we are, there’s one last application I’d like to challenge you and your church to take:  consider making some movement further along the reproductive line.  If you’re thinking, “Not now,” I’d encourage you to rethink that and at least do something--support a church planter, give something.  If you’re doing something, consider taking the challenge on of being a godparent.  Or perhaps its time to daughter that first church - or that second one.

 

Let’s move along the reproductive journey.

HOW TO STAY RELEVANT:

You’ve heard the story of the new pastor who stood up on his first Sunday and declared, “It’s my goal to bring this church into the twentieth century!’  Someone interrupted, “Don’t you mean twenty-first century?”  The pastor replied, “We’ll take it one century at a time.”

 

Churches can get stuck in a rut of irrelevance.  The number one reason why Americans do not attend church in the 21st century is it is, according to the un-churched,  irrelevant.  The typical comments include, “It’s a waste of time.”  “The church just isn’t pertinent to my life today.”  “I have more important things to do.”  “It doesn’t make any difference in my life.”

 

I grew up in an environment where the church valued tradition over relevance.  We sang centuries-old songs, sat on centuries-old furniture with a strange name (pews) and used centuries-old languages (Old English and Latin).  .  And I wondered if the issues we discussed were ever important.  I had a desire for God, but the boredom tended to squelch it.  When I finally turned to God in college (outside of my traditional church) I became passionate about spiritual relevance.

 

Clearly God is relevant.  The Bible is relevant, and the Gospel is the most relevant news in the world.  So here’s the question, how can we as churches (and followers) stay relevant?

 

Thom Rainer says one of the top questions churches need to ask is:  Are you addressing the real issues of real lives?

 

How can we address real issues and remain relevant?

 

The Apostle Paul had some ideas:

 

“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”--1 Corinthians 9:19-22 (NIV)

 

Paul valued relevance.  And in this passage he outlines at least five keys to staying up to date.

 

1.  Know your role

 

The Message Version says:

 

“Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!”--1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (The Message)

 

Paul describes himself as a servant.  His role was to intentionally serve others.  Relevance demands that we put our preferences, our style, even our rights aside. Paul gave up his rights for relevance:

 

“Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now.”--1 Corinthians 9:15 (NLT)

 

William Temple observed, “The church is the only cooperative society in the world that exists for the benefit of non-members.”

 

To stay relevant the church needs to take on a servant role and to embrace the truth that the church exists for others.  But sadly, most people never get there.  Most believers never progress from spiritual adolescence to servant-hood.

 

George Barna states that 90% of the Christians in America see their local congregations existing primarily to meet their needs.   If we’re going to stay relevant that needs to change.  We need to get the message across that church isn’t for us.

 

In “Deliberate Simplicity,” Dave Browing writes,  “A big part of a pastor’s job is to keep the church swimming upstream, because the natural current takes us to a place of inward focus.  We buy new chairs not so we will be more comfortable but so our neighbors and friends will be when they finally arrive.  We pick songs not with just our ear in mind but for those who are about to come.”

 

We have to reframe our role as one of a servant to others if we want to be and stay on the edge.

            

2.  Know your audience

 

“I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever.” 1 Corinthians 9:20 (The Message)

 

A scuba diver was enjoying the aquatic world 20 feet below the water line, when he noticed another man the same depth—but he had no scuba gear at all.  The diver went below another 20 feet, but moments later the same guy joined him.  The diver went down another 25 feet, but again the other guy showed up.!  This confused the scuba diver, so he took out a waterproof chalkboard set and wrote, “How are you able to stay under the deep without any equipment?”  The guy took the chalkboard and wrote, “I’m drowning!”

 

We need to understand who we are talking to.  Relevance is relative.  We have to go out of our way to understand our target and go out of our way to communicate to them.

 

was a typical summer day in Texas--about two hundred degrees with two hundred percent humidity.  I was uncomfortable and beginning to perspire when a couple of my buddies said they were making a Starbucks run.  They asked if I wanted anything.  “Great, thank you,” I said.  “How about a venti passion iced tea with two Splendas and lots of ice.”  That’s my typical order.   They returned and handed me a hot tea.  I was confused, I never drink hot tea and who drinks hot tea on a summer day in Dallas anyway?  I thought, “Know your audience!”   To be fair, they did bring me a cup of ice because they thought I must be nuts wanting hot tea in hot Texas.    I must not have been very clear.  But the point is it is often difficult to understand our audience, but relevance means we work at it.

 

3.  Know the times

 

“The “Men of Issachar...understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”--1 Chronicles 12:32

 

We need to know the Bible and the times.

 

I like this Anthony Myers quote:  “Not a lot of people know this about me, but I'm a time traveler. The only catch is that so far, I can only travel through time at the same rate everyone else is going.”

 

I suspect a lot of churches travel through time slower than everyone else.

 

Eric Hoffer suggests:  “In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

 

I don’t want to lead a church that is beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.  So I need to know the times.

 

4.  Know the message

 

When she got flowers from her husband on their anniversary, my daughter's friend quickly opened the card. All it said was "No." What did that mean?   She called her husband, who said, "I didn't attach any message.  The florist asked if I had a message and I said, 'No.'" 

 

Do we have a message?  Do we know what it is?  Paul did:

 

“It is the opportunity to preach the Good News …”--1 Corinthians 9:17 (NLT)

 

Paul embraced a message of good news.  Have we?

 

The number one reason why people don’t go to church is they say it is irrelevant.  Reason number two is new:  the church’s anti-gay stance.  Reason number 3:  “Everyone is a hypocrite.”  Reason 4:  “All they want is my money.  And the fifth reason why people in America don’t go to church?  They say, “The church is gloomy and all they talk about is death.”

 

Amazingly, the church is now known for bad news, when our message is supposed to be good news.  If we become known for what we are for rather than for what we are against, we’ll probably be a lot more relevant.  Let’s concentrate on the good news.

 

5.  Know the goal

 

 “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”--1 Corinthians 9:22 (NIV)

 

Paul’s goal was not to be hip, it wasn’t to be politically correct, it wasn’t to be liked or even right.  His goal was to win people to Jesus.

 

Now we know that Paul doesn’t win them, you and I don’t win them--God does. 

 

“I do all this for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:23-24 (NIV)

 

Paul knows God wins them, but he also knows he is a partner in the process and he takes his responsibility seriously and with a sense of urgency.

 

Henry Trumbull made this sobering observation:  “Unless a man is ready to work for the salvation of others, it may be questioned whether or not he himself is saved.  He who wants only enough religion to save himself is not likely to have even that much.”

 

That’s tough stuff.  But perhaps if we, like Paul, were so committed to outreach that we would do anything short of sinning to save folks, we might be even more effective. 

 

So let’s continue to know our role, know our audience, know the times, know the message and know the goal--all of that will go a long way toward helping us stay relevant.

 

OUTREACH IS A TEAM SPORT

So many gathered that there was no longer space, not even near the door. Jesus was speaking the word to them.  Some people arrived, and four of them were bringing to him a man who was paralyzed.  They couldn’t carry him through the crowd, so they tore off part of the roof above where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they lowered the mat on which the paralyzed man was lying.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven!”—Mark 2:2-5 (CEB)

 

I suspect I’d seen this before, but I don’t remember it.  I don’t recall anyone preaching on it—maybe I just missed it.  But there’s an amazing phrase in this story, “When Jesus saw THEIR faith.”—Mark 2:5 (CEB)

 

Outreach is a team sport. 

 

Someone coming to Christ may depend not just on that person’s faith, but mine as well. 

 

When you think about this story it does make sense that someone besides the paralytic had to have faith that Jesus would come through.  Even if this poor paralytic really believed that this Jesus, who had turned his town upside down in Mark chapter 1, would save him, how was a paralytic supposed to get to the “healing service”?  He had to convince at least a few friends to go along with his belief.  First century paralytics didn’t have means.  He couldn’t have paid for the trip.  It’s not like he even had pizza and beer to offer his buddies as payments for the ride.  His friends had to believe too.

 

Outreach is a team sport.

 

It took four people to carry the man to Jesus, and it appears that there were more than four in the group. 

 

“Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.”—Mark 4:3 (NIV)

 

So who came up with the idea of cutting a hole in the building?    Someone in the group had to play the strategic role.  Someone had to have the tenacious, never-give-up ideation function that said, “Hey, how about we think outside the box—literally—and make the box bigger?”  Without that creative friend, the paralytic might never have walked.   I bet ripping a hole in a roof takes not only creativity, but faith as well.  Someone had to believe enough to offer such a seemingly outrageous solution.

 

Outreach is a team sport.

 

I wonder how many of them climbed up on the roof to start dismantling it?  Somebody had to do the dirty work.  Removing a roof isn’t an easy task, and it probably isn’t a one-person job either.

 

Outreach is a team sport.

 

And if it took four guys to carry the man, how many had to be involved in lifting the paralytic up on the roof?   There probably needed to be as many people on the roof to grab the mat with the man on it as there were on the ground to lift the mat up.

 

Outreach is a team sport.

 

And who was involved in lowering the man through the roof into the gathering with Jesus?   That would have been even trickier.  They didn’t want to spoil all the hard work by actually dropping the ball, I mean paralytic, in the final phase.  There had to be a group of strong, careful men to finish this task.  And these folks had to believe that God was up to something.

 

Outreach is a team sport. 

 

So who am I believing for?  Who am I willing to jump in there and grab an end of the mat and start the trek toward Jesus with?  Maybe my friend turning to Jesus doesn’t just depend on his or her faith, maybe my faith has to be part of it too.

 

And what am I willing to do?  The paralytic’s friends decided they weren’t going to let anything stop them from bringing their friend to Jesus.  The job might be heavy, it might be messy, it might look impossible and it might take strength and skill.  But they all did it, they all played a role, and I willing?

 

Finally, who am I reaching out with?   Can you imagine the after-party the paralytic and his entourage held.  The now-healed and now-forgiven friend was probably toasting his friends.  But more than that I’m sure he was praising Jesus, and they all must have been brainstorming and strategizing about who they would bring to Jesus next and how they’d accomplish the mission.

 

That is really what the church is supposed to be, right?  A team reaching out together--each one playing a role, with the real hero being Jesus and the mission clear:  bringing people to him.

 

And that’s what a network is supposed to be too.  We all work together, creatively, tenaciously, skillfully, and diligently with the mission of getting people closer to Jesus and watching him change their lives. 

 

Outreach is a team sport.

 

IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP!

My wife, Lori, and I recently traveled to Japan and China.  We went to Japan to see Lori’s Mom, who is staying with Lori’s brother and sister-in-law—we wanted to see them too!  And since we were on that side of the world, we flew to China to see our daughter, Tricia, who serves as a missionary in that country.

On our first day in Tokyo, Lori’s brother took us to a couple Japanese religious shrines.  We watched as hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people would throw coins into coffers, go through a ceremonial washing, walk the stairs to the shrine, and then clap their hands.  My brother-in-law told me they clap their hands to “wake up the gods.”  

This sight was deeply disturbing to me.  I immediately had a sick feeling in my stomach.  The religious ritual was sad and silly.  These well-meaning, but misinformed folks were trying to wake up the gods.

I thought of Psalm 121:

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” —Psalm 121:1-4 (NIV)

God isn’t asleep.  He doesn’t need to wake up.  We need to wake up!

“You know what sort of times we live in, and so you should live properly. It is time to wake up. You know that the day when we will be saved is nearer now than when we first put our faith in the Lord. Night is almost over, and day will soon appear. We must stop behaving as people do in the dark and be ready to live in the light. So behave properly, as people do in the day. Don’t go to wild parties or get drunk or be vulgar or indecent. Don’t quarrel or be jealous. Let the Lord Jesus Christ be as near to you as the clothes you wear. Then you won’t try to satisfy your selfish desires”. —Romans 13:11-14 (CEV) 

IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP!

Bill Hybels, in his book, “Axiom” has a chapter titled, “The Bias Toward Action.”  Here is an excerpt:

“I was helping a church with a building initiative a few years ago and en route from the airport to the church, the senior pastor and I talked about this ‘bias toward action’ concept.  He told me that whenever he’s considering hiring someone new, he gives the person a driving test.  Are they looking for the faster lane?  The shortest route?  An edge on nearby drivers?  We happened to be sitting at a stoplight while he was telling me all of this and somewhere mid-paragraph, the light changed from red to green.  I waited a few seconds for him to notice, but no such luck.  Finally, I couldn’t choke it back:  ‘It’s as green as it’s gonna get, Mario.  If you’re so action-oriented, then step on it.  I’m dying here!’  Friend, it’s as green as it’s gonna get in our world.  The doors are open, the path is clear, the harvest is huge, and the time to act is now.  I believe God is looking to pour out his favor on those who are hopping out of bed each morning ready to further the cause for his glory.”

It’s time to wake up!  It’s as green as it’s going to get!  So, how can I wake up?

1) Put some urgency into life

“This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see.” —Romans 13:11-13 (NLT)

Here’s another passage from Bill Hybels’ chapter on action:

“Personally I’ve never understood inactivity.  Why a person would sit when he could soar, spectate when he could play, or atrophy when he could develop is beyond me.  I’m sure Jesus felt the same way.  A lot of adjectives might describe Jesus’ time here on earth, but comatose would not be one of them.  In the span of three years in ‘vocational’ ministry, he performed dozens of miracles, healed hundreds of people, catalyzed thousands of conversions, set the stage for the most ambitious church plant in history, and died for the sins of all humankind.  He was the epitome of action-orientation.”Bill Hybels, “Axiom”  “The Bias Toward Action”

Albert Einstein observed:  “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on…

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2) Put some urgency into relationships

“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.  For the commandments say, ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.’  These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.” —Romans 13:8-10 (NLT)

Baseball legend Jackie Robinson noted, “A life isn’t significant except for its impact on other lives.”

 

3) Put some urgency into living right

“We must stop behaving as people do in the dark and be ready to live in the light. So behave properly, as people do in the day. Don’t go to wild parties or get drunk or be vulgar or indecent. Don’t quarrel or be jealous.”—Romans 12:12-13 (CEV) 

“Stop being the person you used to be in your old life. That person was bad because he wanted to do wrong things. Have a new mind and heart. Be a new person. That new person has been made like God. He does what is right and holy because he knows the truth.” —Ephesians 4:22-24 (Worldwide English (New Testament)) 

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” Lao Tzu

 

4) Put some urgency into outreach

“But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!” —Romans 13:11-14 (TMV) 

“A church which pitches its tents without constantly looking out for new horizons, which does not continually strike camp, is being untrue to its calling… We must play down our longing for certainty, accept what is risky and live by improvisation and experiment.” Hans Kung, “The Church as the People of God” 

“Keep the faith…just not from others.”

 

5) Put some urgency into spiritual growth

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”Will Rogers 

“Let the Lord Jesus Christ be as near to you as the clothes you wear.” —Romans 12:14 (CEV)

Leonardo da Vinci concluded, “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

As I write this article I am battling with jet lag.  The long trip, flight delays and lack of sleep have left me in sort of a daze.  I guess that’s not too far off from how many of us live most of the time.  We’re in a daze, we are blindly following the crowds, going through our rituals and wondering how we can wake up the gods.

William James said, “Compared to what we ought to be, we are half awake.”

If we want to make our dreams come true, we have to wake up!
 
 
Written by JD Pearring