I was at an event with Mark Driscoll a couple of months ago and we spent a while talking about our Internet Campus and other online ministry efforts. One of the questions he asked was if we had a written definition of “church.” I told him that we didn’t, but asked if he had one. He went on to discuss some of his thoughts about it, and also how he felt it’s appropriate for church leaders to discuss/debate what “church” should be, given that technology has changed the way we connect, communicate, and congregate. So…I wanted to throw the question to you all. How would you define “church”? What are the things that are necessary to call something a church?
Ephesians 4:3-6 says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Paul implies that unity won’t just happen. He instructs us to “make every effort.”
You can make some efforts by:
- Sharing your resources with other ministries. (This could include your building, portable sound system, van, curriculum, or youth pastor.)
- Deciding to only speak well of others.
- Attending your local ministers’ meeting and making friends.
- Calling another local pastor and asking him if you can worship at his church on your next weekend off. Write a letter afterwards to express how his church blessed you.
- Pray for other ministries.
- Avoid ministry gossip, and tell others you will not listen to it when they start.
What are some efforts someone has made toward you? What are you doing for others?
One of the first weddings I ever performed was for two of my best friends, Scott and Shannon Streller. I spent hours carefully typing the whole ceremony so it would be just right.
Unfortunately, my spell-checker didn’t catch one of my mistakes. During the phrase, “The two will be united as one flesh… I accidentally typed, “The two will be untied…
These words have the exact same letters, but entirely different meanings. The only letter out of place is the “I.” If the “I” is in the right place, it will read united. “I” in the wrong place reads untied.
Uniting churches seems like an impossible task. Although I can’t control the hearts of other leaders, I have committed to keep my heart in the right place.
I will do what I can do.
How about you? What are you doing to unite the Church?
If I were the devil, my number one strategy to thwart the work of God would be to divide Christ’s church. Satan certainly knows the words of Jesus that a Kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.
Jesus asked God to make all His disciples one (John 17:21). He prayed that we would be brought to complete unity (John 17:23). Paul told us to, “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit…” (Eph. 4:3)
Unity doesn’t mean uniformity.
We shouldn’t be alike in style, philosophy, and personal preferences. We are strengthened in our diversity. We can be unified and diversified!
We don’t have to be alike or agree on minor issues to agree on the Lordship of Christ!
For example, a strong church in my community changed its worship style. Several other churches within the same denomination took out full-page ads against this church, calling them heretics. HEARTBREAKING!
As a parent, I hate when my kids fight. Imagine how God must feel when He looks at His children who can’t get along.
When bringing “you,” authenticity is crucial.
Everything you say must be true. But everything that is true doesn’t need to be said.
- If you or your spouse is uncomfortable about sharing something too personal—don’t.
- If you might make someone look bad, don’t share it.
- If your challenge is “too fresh,” you might allow some time to pass before sharing it.
- If you’re going to tell a story about someone in the church, get their permission first.
- If you’re telling a story about someone else that would be upset if they find out, don’t tell the story. (Even if you don’t use their names, it’s amazing how small the world is and what people hear.)
Have you ever said “too much?”
In today’s world, everything you say tends to live forever.
Most people will see you as a pastor first. I want people to see me as a follower of Jesus who happens to be a pastor. (In my mind, the difference is big!)
Accomplishing this goal takes some work. Many church members see pastors as a “step above” the normal person. (Some pastors even believe this to be true.)
To me, the pastor who is viewed as a normal person has an extreme advantage over the one who is viewed as the “perfect spiritual leader.”
To demystify your pastoral role, you’ll have to take some self-revealing risks. Here are a few suggestions when revealing personal flaws:
- If you’re courageous enough to expose selected spiritual doubts, people may relate to you as a real person.
- If you carefully reveal a marital struggle (with permission from your spouse), people may be more likely to listen.
- When you talk about certain personal failures, many people will feel an increased bond with you.
- If you are hurting and you express your need, your church family can be aware to pray for and minister to you.
It’s not uncommon for someone to say to me, “Craig, when you shared about your struggle with ____________ (fill in the blank), I knew you were someone I could relate to.”
A few people might reject you for your authentic confessions, but the vast majority will accept, embrace, and trust you as a genuine believer wrestling to grow closer to Christ.
We’re talking about the importance of “bringing” you in a message to your church.
To bring you means you’ll have to spend more time in study and prayer.
(Notice I didn’t say research. Studying the text is vital, but don’t stop there.)
- A “Saturday night special” sermon that you throw together won’t likely empower you to bring you.
- A sermon you lifted from www.quickandeasyfreesermonsforlazypastors.com won’t do the trick either. (I made up that site.)
- A rehashed sermon you preached five years ago will likely feel like a rehashed sermon you preached five years ago.
You must live the message. Breathe the message. Experience God’s Spirit speaking to you. That generally takes time. In my opinion, the best messages are usually ones that are born out of days or weeks of wrestling with God’s Word.
When possible, I suggest:
- Spend four days preparing three hours a day rather than one twelve-hour day. (This gives your Spirit and mind time to process what God is saying to you.)
- Interview a few other people about the text. See how God speaks to them. God might say something to you through them.
- Let the message “cook.” Instead of microwaving a message, give God time to slowly burn the message on your heart.
If you are unwilling to do what it takes to bring you, your effectiveness as a biblical communicator will be drastically limited.
This week I’d like to discuss the value and necessity of authentic and transparent preaching.
Every year, I personally mentor a handful of young speakers. Most of the speakers I work with don’t struggle with researching the text, preaching creatively, building meaningful outlines, or pointing people toward the gospel. Most of the communicators I see struggle to bring all of themselves to a message.
When you preach or teach, you must bring you. Without you in, around, and through the message, you will not impact today’s listener.
The younger audience today has a built in authentic-meter. You can preach with passion, humor, clever points, or heart-wrenching stories. But if the scriptures haven’t touched your life, the listener will know it—and ignore your well-crafted message.
People want to know:
- How has the text affected you?
- How have you failed in the area(s) the Scripture addresses?
- What about the text makes you uncomfortable?
- What do you feel about what scripture is saying? (I know our feelings don’t trump scriptural truth, but talking about how we feel about the text can help engage others to listen at a deeper level.)
- How are you becoming different because of your study in God’s word?