Friday, March 16, 2018

Rainer on becoming a more welcoming church

Notes for future reference regarding a community welcoming church:
  1. Attitudinal Angst: a church illness where church members are most focused on getting their own desires and preferences met, rather than being a serving member of the body of Christ. It is also called Church Country Club Membership.
  2. Slippage Syndrome: the church illness where a church stops focusing on its primary purposes. Evangelism slippage is the most common.
  3. Detail Distraction: a church illness where there is too much focus on minor issues to the detriment of major issues. For example, routine meetings can become more important than compelling missions.
  4. Institutional Idolatry: a church illness where the members have an unbiblical devotion to inconsequential matters such as facilities, order of worship, or styles of worship.
  5. Activity Acclimation: a church illness where the members see busyness to be the same as commitment and/or godliness. The church calendar becomes the guiding document for the congregation.
  6. Purposeless Prayer: the church illness where corporate prayer is non-existent or steeped in non-useful tradition. Such prayers can be perfunctory, showy, or gossipy.
  7. Detrimental Defensiveness: a church illness where the members and leadership are fearful to move forward because of memories of past conflicts and the presence of troublemakers and bullies.
  1. Are our members inviting others?
  2. Does our website communicate to guests?
  3. Are our members friendly to guests or to members only?
  4. Is our facility clean, tidy, and safe?
  5. Are there barriers to worship?
  6. Are we speaking a foreign language?
  7. Do we follow up with guests in a timely manner?
  8. Do we have clear next steps?

  1. Understand the community has changed
  2. Understand the level to which they have been blessed
  3. Understand the community as an opportunity to display love
  4. Understand it is obedience
  1. Avoid “Insider Trading”
  2. Nobody likes Worship Casserole
  3. Tick Tock, the Game is Locked
  4. To Thine Own Self Be true
  1. Pray as you enter the property.
  2. Park at the most distant spot available.
  3. Greet people.
  4. Look for people to help.
  5. Sit as close as possible to the front of the worship center.
  6. Sit in the middle.
  7. Sit closely.
  8. Volunteer to serve.
  9. Pray as you leave.

A Glorious Death

I was reading the Lectionary passages for this week (Lent 5B). The Gospel reading is John 12:20-33. Jesus is approached by some Greek seekers. Jesus speaks of his impending death, according the writer/editor. But the theme that develops in that conversation led me to the thought of the death in the pericope.

A glorious death is something that we don't talk about as having happened to real people. We hear it in poetry. We read of it in literature. We watch it in movies. When we confront death in the lives of human beings, flesh and blood we may know or who are known by those we know, we don't speak of death as glorious. It can be tragic or sudden. We may feel that it was expected or understandable. It can be peaceful or horrible. But we never talk about a glorious death for people. Even people of faith experience a death that is less that glorified.

John 12:24: "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies..."
John 12:32: "when I am lifted up from the ground..."

Jesus uses two references to the ground or earth in this proclamation of impending death. There is a weight on the words that he uses. The grain must die in the ground to bring forth fruit. And the hearers of that word understood that part of Jesus' little parable. They had seen the farmers sowing the wheat into the ground. And what goes into the ground must die. There is no light. There is no life in the ground. What was once alive returns to the earth. "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...."

But how many grasped the bigger picture of what Jesus was saying? Did they know that he was speaking of himself? Did they think of his death as something that was near? Billy Graham died recently (as of this writing). How many people were ready for the news of his death? Even though he was "advanced in years", did people grasp that he would really die in their lifetime or awareness? Jesus was forecasting something, but did anyone put it together what that was?

Then, he makes an even more veiled reference to being lifted up. He just announced what happens to the wheat seed in the ground. Now he is announcing that he would be raised up from the same. The writer/editor inserts this clarification: He was saying this to indicated the kind of death by which he was to die. But raising up is not related to death. Death is laying down to die. Death is putting one into the tomb. Death is going down into Sheol. Being raised up is not dying. It is glorifying.

Jesus is bringing glory to dying.

John 12:23: "now is the time for the Son of man to be glorified."
John 12:28: "Father, glorify your name." "I have glorified it and I will glorify it again."

Jesus isn't just bringing death down to earth. Jesus is also raising it up to heaven. God is now involved in the dying. But in God is life. God's name was glorified in the Incarnation (and God took flesh and dwelt among humanity). God's name was glorified in the Baptism of Jesus (this is My son in whom I am well pleased). God's name was glorified in the obedience of Christ witnessed to in the Transfiguration (this is My son; listen to him). And the name of God would be glorified again before all was said and done.

In the death of Christ, we see not only God's name glorified, but we also see death glorified. Through the death of Christ, we see God transforming life (by his stripes we are healed). In the death of Christ, we see God transforming our nature (sin is forgiven). In the death of Christ we have a victory over that which has been humanity's curse from the garden (where, o death, is your sting).

The death of Jesus is not beautiful. It is not easy to digest. It is beyond our full mortal comprehension to understand at its deepest meanings. But it is glorious.

In its shame, his death is honorable.
In its brutality, his death is miraculous.
In its disgrace, his death is justifying.
In its injustice, his death is reconciling.
In its pain, his death is peaceful.
In its suffering, his death is gentle.
In its dying, his death is glorifying.