Got the time?

Posted: October 25, 2010 in Church Leadership, Random

I saw a guy brushing his teeth on the way to work this morning and I couldn’t help thinking, “If you are so busy or disorganized or ill-adjusted to going to work every day that you need to brush your teeth in the car…you need some serious help (and possibly a beating).”  Shaving or putting on your makeup in the car on a regular basis, just means you are a little dimwitted.

Think about how long the whole process of shaving takes.  Five minutes from lather to toweling off?  That’s getting up at 6 instead of 6:05 or 7:15 instead of 7:20 or…you get the point.  Why can’t someone adjust for that little time in their life?  Breakfast on the run (I’m not talking about a bagel from Panera)!?  That’s laziness, not convenience.  Alarm clocks and snooze buttons do what we program them to do!

Here is what I know to be true.  People that can’t make it to work on time choose to be late.  Folks that miss deadlines did so on purpose.  I once had a guy who worked for me who was late the same 5-10 minutes every day.  How can you consistently be late the same amount of time and not be able to reorganize your life to come to work 5-10 minutes early!?  The reality is that the morning routine he chose (and stuck with) didn’t include coming to work early.  It included coming to work 5-10 minutes late everyday.

Time is precious and life is fleeting.  There are hundreds of illustrations of small amounts of time being the difference between wins and losses, huge deals and lost ones, and even life and death.

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”
Benjamin Franklin

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Are you a spleen?

Posted: October 23, 2010 in Church Leadership, Ministry

One of the greatest questions a person that follows Jesus should tackle once they have chosen to follow Christ is the following: “What has God the Holy Spirit gifted me to do?”

You may have been told that it’s easy to answer and you should just do what you already know you are good at doing.  That’s partially true, but it misses some pretty clear Scripture from 1 Corinthians 12…especially verse 11.  God didn’t just give you the ability to organize so you could be a good manager.  He didn’t help you develop a sense of empathy for people in tough spots, so you could be a good social worker.  God the Holy Spirit hand picked spiritual gifts to help the Body of Christ, the Church, reach the world and make disciples.  Plus, you might not even be using your gifts at work!

Going through life with no knowledge of what God the Holy Spirit has armed you with would be a mistake.  More than likely you will also be frustrated and discouraged as you fizzle out in various roles in the church.

There are various ways to figure out what you have been given.  You can guess based on what you like to do, what you do well, or you can get some assistance from people that know how to pull it out you.  I’d go with three to be on the safe side.

Two free and easy ones are Gifted 2 Serve and  Team Ministry.  Don’t take the inventories alone…you will need someone there who can help you answer what is actually true, not what you wish was true.  🙂

  • It feels like everyone I meet goes to church somewhere.
  • Those that don’t have no interest whatsoever.  What does that mean?
  • I feel like I write good sermons, but my delivery is less than average.
  • It’s probably because I only get to do it once a month…but that’s how often I believe God wants us to do it!?
  • My kids are at the perfect age and are incredibly fun.
  • Yet, I want them to grow up and be successful at following God and leading others to do the same.  Guess that means they can’t stay cute forever…
  • We have 3 cars (an 2004 F-150, an 2000 Accord, and a 2002 Trailblazer), but we only need 2 of them (the F-150 sits in the driveway and collects leaves anyway).
  • I’d like to get a Honda Odyssey for Carrie, which means trading in the truck (only one worth anything), but keeping one of the other 2.  Can’t decide which one to keep…
  • I’ve learned to like/drink coffee…makes me feel grown up.
  • To make it good takes a bunch of sweeteners, which makes it sweet as soda.  They both have caffeine and soda tastes better.  Not sure why I did this to myself!?
  • I might be able to get a nice pair of sunglasses (these or these) for 50% off.
  • As good of a deal and great opportunity as that is I’m not sure I should, because they will probably get destroyed like my $10 pair?

I’m going to need counseling to get through all this…

As we wrap up this little journey it’s important to discuss the way Paul and the other New Testament writers addressed the church.  The emphasis became focused on the church of a city.  Not individual churches, nor churches in very specific locations, but rather churches called by the name of the city where they were located.  In other words, we have city churches, not churches on a particular street or part of town.  I only mention this because we tend to make huge distinctions now in the church about everything from location, to worship style, to the diversity of our population, and so on and so forth.  New Testament writers were just addressing the issues that they heard or observed in a church of a particular city.

Additionally, Archeologists have claimed to uncover the remains of the first church buildings in 257 A.D. Dura-Europos.  You might say it took at least 200 years for the first Christians to get up the nerve or the finances to have their own place of worship…and we have come a long way.

Back to my original thesis.  The book of Acts and the New Testament isn’t a manual on how to organize a church service, nor does it provide directions on where someone should gather a particular church in their town.  Instead, the New Testament is a summary of instructions that the inspired writers felt compelled to give, the churches in various cities, on how to live as a believer.  A believer who was part of the Christian body, namely the church.

Consequently, everything we have chosen to do to create churches that meet only in buildings or only in homes come after the messages and examples of the Bible.  They are “extra-Biblical,” but it doesn’t mean they are wrong.  It means they are ideas based on practical solutions to logistical problems, or possibly opportunities seized by its leaders.  They may have even been adjustments to try and derive some growth for the Kingdom of God.  Nothing in the New Testament said we have to organize a church like they did during the first 50 years after Jesus died.

The creative God and Savior we serve, who created people in his image, can certainly inspire and develop the church beyond what it looked like, how it was organized, and what it could offer 1900 years ago!!

So, please, please, please don’t try and say the church you lead or the one you attend is “Biblical, New Testament, or 1st Century.”  They are the best your leaders (or you) could do with what they have and/or the vision they were given.  Just as it’s retarded, insane, and foolish to claim the King James Version as the only good or legitimate version of the Bible, a church that tries to emulate 1st Century Christians in the location or the way they organized their church had better do the following:

—  Have church every day in a church building and at home.

—  Sell everything and live communally.

—  Do the Lord’s Supper with incredible regularity.

Otherwise we should just go make disciples at whatever church God has called us to attend.

Amen.

Moving forward we see, in Acts 2:44-46, a reminder that functionally the church was using a two-pronged approach of daily meetings for prayer in the Temple and the Lord’s Supper in private homes.  They also essentially adopted a complete and total rejection of personal property and individual ambitions.

Later, Peter appears and preaches his brave message (after a miracle of God) and we are reminded of the Temple being used for prayer in Acts 3, but not necessarily for the “church.”

In Acts 4 we see the believers gathered again for preaching and prayer, but the “place” they were meeting isn’t identified…we just learn that it is “shaken.”  On a more alarming and convicting note we get reminded that they still hadn’t abandoned this idea of communal property.  Individuality was obsolete with these first Christians.

In Acts 5, we see their meeting place and choice of frequency.  Again, it was a combination of the Temple and the home (with daily frequency).  What can we glean from this information?

Not entirely sure, but it was obviously a workable solution to making converts.  In Acts 5:12 the believers met in the Temple and despite striking fear in observers, people kept joining them!

Whether for convenience or curiosity Peter went from House to House preaching and teaching.  Seems pretty logical that it was believer’s houses that he approached.  Nothing like knocking on the door of a Temple Guard’s house trying to preach Jesus to ensure you will get arrested.

Acts 8 begins the persecution of the church, which forced it underground and seemingly into homes exclusively for that is where Paul went to arrest people.

In the very next chapter we see the church enjoys a peaceful time where they are strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit.  Much of the reason for this may have been the conversion of their greatest enemy…Paul!  Nothing is said specifically here about where they worshiped or how they did those meetings during these two phases.

In Act 12 “many people” were praying for Peter to be released from prison in a home.  It’s odd for Peter to know to come there after his miraculous escape from jail if this wasn’t a normal meeting place for believers, but they aren’t called the church here.

We find the church gathered, with its leaders, in Acts 13 and 14, but the location and the way they worshiped is still missing.

As we move to Acts 15 we find a much better organized church trying to get clarity on some church polity issues and receiving encouragement from the Apostles.  At the end of Acts 15 we hear that the church of the entire city gathers to hear from Paul and Barnabas as they read a letter that contains some instructions from the church in Jerusalem.  No idea where they met…

In Acts 16 Paul goes into Lydia’s home to encourage her and other believers, but this may have just been for the benefit of her and her family.  It doesn’t mention a church.

Acts 20 gives us Paul doing an evening service Troas, which may have been in a home.  It had multiple rooms and an upstairs, but it could have been a church building with a balcony for all we know…although is very unlikely.

In the next chapter, Acts 21, Paul stays with various families, but nothing is said about if it was the “church” or what he did there.  At one point a prophet does come and prophesy that Paul will be arrested and bound by the Jews.

The book of Acts ends abruptly, with Paul doing regular teachings about the Kingdom of God and Jesus Christ, from his rented home in Rome.  It doesn’t mention the church, but it could be assumed that those who were coming were Christians.

The only other mentions of Churches, in specific locations, are in the closing of Paul’s letters.

Romans 16:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 16:19 tells us that the meeting Paul had with Pricilla and Aquila in Acts 18 resulted in a church being started in their homes.

To Be Continued…

If we were to continue to look at the book of Acts to find ammunition for a type of church gathering it can be somewhat discouraging.  Practical ways to organize the church aren’t mapped out like they are all over the shelves of our Christian bookstores.  We will even find genuine and well-meaning authors arriving at seemingly contradictory ideas.  Like is my custom, I’d rather see what the Bible actually says then what people have concluded.

For instance in Acts 3, Peter preached in the Temple to Jews telling them they killed Jesus.  This is the modern equivalent to a Christian minister going into a mosque and talking about how much Jesus loves the Muslims, while reminding them of September 11th.   I don’t know too many people with the guts to attempt that and I’m not sure it would bear fruit anyway.

Obviously, we know Peter was trying to reach Jews, but the church (the called out ones), who had accepted the fact that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, were worshiping and gather from the beginning of the book.  Where and how is what everyone likes to pontificate about in books, blogs, and sermons.

In the first chapter of Acts we find the Apostles, disciples, and other “followers of the way” continually praying together.  It says there were 120 of them were together, but doesn’t tell us a location.  On the day of Pentecost we finally get a clue as to where they might have been hanging out…in a home according to Acts 2:2.  They were “all together” in one place which happened to be a home.

If we can take Acts 1:15 literally, there were at least 120 believers praying and waiting for the Holy Spirit in this building.  That’s a “church meeting in a home” on a pretty large scale, whether it’s practical or not today, it’s straight from the Bible.

What should we make of it?  Well, I think it was strictly convenience…120 people in a house doesn’t sound practical, but it isn’t realistic to do a Capital Campaign and build a Temple for worship in 7 weeks either.  They did what they could with what they had.

To Be Continued…

I realized before tackling this subject that there are great scholars with Ph.D.’s that have probably already written amazing and thorough books about this question.  They probably considered various historical, sociological, and practical trends in both the New Testament and modern church.  You can be sure that they could and probably will continue to argue more eloquently for their point of view, but it doesn’t I should keep quiet…so I won’t.

Here is what I know from what I see in the Bible (I’m not and archeologist, so I didn’t dig up scroll somewhere in Jerusalem to make these conclusions).  The New Testament Church throughout the book of Acts and during the time of Paul’s letters (to various churches) met both in the Temple and in homes.  There should not be any serious contrarian that would propose anything other than that.  It’s black and white and irrefutable unless you don’t believe or can’t read the Bible.

Many a Christian leader has said or attempted to show what “Biblical” Church should look like.  Normally their initial definition for a New Testament church is found in Acts 2:46.  Mostly, I now hear these verses coming from Organic Churches or House Churches to fuel their very different ecclesiology.

I find it very ironic that in that in this same verse it says they worshiped in the Temple and celebrated the Lord’s Supper in homes (not that they had “church” in their homes). From this we find a mode for the church to function that ignores this vivid description for what it is was.  Thus, we create an extra-Biblical idea and become terrible Bible scholars in the process.

To Be Continued…