Change the Narrative | Wk 2

So what have you wondered about? What have you marveled at? Have you ever been in awe of God?
Have you ever wondered how God thought up everything He created? Have you ever learned about the power and authority of God?
 
Have you ever been curious about your place in everything God has planned for this world?
It’s pretty amazing to think about…it’s WONDER-ful…it’s MARVEL-ous. It’s worth learning and sharing. I think it can be pretty amazing.
 
So then why doesn’t everyone want to know about it? Why is it that some people have NO desire to walk through the doors of church, or sit and listen to a song about Jesus or give credit for a miraculous occurrence to our creator?
Why do people (our neighbors) dislike church so much?
This is the question we want to look at today – we think there’s an issue in our world and we want to attack it…we as a church need to combat it. I think there are misconceptions and misunderstandings that keep us separated. And today we
I think there are 2 general observations of NON-Church going – our “Neighbors”…most of them think…
1. Church is boring OR… 2. Church is Condemning
With most people that don’t attend church these seem to be the 2 most common views…
 
If you were to watch any sitcom you see the lead actor sitting with his family on a hard, uncomfortable pew listening to some soft spoken, monotone man usually with a southern accent…standing in a dull suit behind a wooden pulpit preaching that Jesus loves everyone – and lulling each congregant to sleep. Right? That’s what we see…
 
A quick search on Google pulled up some people’s thoughts about church…take a look of some opinions of the people that God has told us to be good neighbors to…
 
You would think Christians would be more excited and actually enjoy their “relationship” with God?
Church overall is pretty boring. … The churches around here are centered more toward the elderly crowd. Young people can’t express themselves here. I hardly see any young people who come to church around here anymore. It’s like watching the same TV show week after week for the rest of your life. Think how boring that might feel. All the actors are dead and they will never make a sequel.
 
Christians must be rather unintelligent. They are always practicing. You’d think they’d know all the stories by now.
 
People either think it doesn’t relate…it’s outdated…it’s irrelevant OR… It goes to the other extreme. If it’s not incredibly boring…Church is incredibly condemning.
 
If you aren’t sleeping on your wife’s shoulder than you’re squirming in your seat because the minister is speaking directly to you. That thing you said, the place you went, the money you didn’t give – church makes you feel bad about it all. Maybe they preach about Hell and you feel like you’ve got a one-way ticket. I mean who would want to choose to sit through that?
 
But sadly this is the view of how many of our “NEIGHBORS” around the world see us…and I think if we’re honest some of those people may be sitting in here. Some people may be dragged along with their spouse or their parents or maybe an overbearing friend – anyone brave enough to admit it?
 
So today we want to look at our neighbors. How do our neighbors view us as “Christians”? What is it we’re doing to create that perception? And then – how do we build a reputation that says our church is safe for your skeptical friend…your doubtful neighbor…it’s safe for you? What can we do to create churches that our unchurched NEIGHBORs would love to attend? Because something has to change…this reputation we have is not good. This boring – tired old church that the world thinks of is not what Jesus died for…
 
Matthew 16:18 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
 
Jesus’ church is so strong and bold that NOT even hell can bring it down. Jesus laid the foundation with His disciples…and Peter became the starting point. And I don’t think the church was boring or condemning then…because when Jesus left and put these guys in charge we saw it grow. It grew it size and in impact. It was a place that attracted it’s neighbors.
 
Acts 2:42-47 42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
 
People came for friendship, for community, for support in hard times. A new community of believers was formed because the “non-church goers” saw life change…they saw transformation…they saw excitement. The church was a place where people desired to be…and not just for a good nap.
 
We could probably look around at the places where people are, and like Mr. Rogers recommended…we can wonder…what brought them in, what kept them there…what is it that makes some places desirable and others not? One man thought about this… Leonard Sweet wrote in his book called The Gospel According to Starbucks… he said… “Starbucks knows that people live for engagement, connection, symbols, and meaningful experiences. If you read the Bible, you’ll see that the people of God throughout history have known the same thing. Life at its very best is a passionate experience, not a doctoral dissertation.”
People want to be where things happen. Neighbors want to get involved with something that’s exciting. No one is interested in doing the same thing over and over…with no impact or effect.
So how do we do this? How do we change the view from the outside? We have to stop making God boring! Jesus didn’t.
Jesus was a master storyteller. He was captivating and engaging, he spoke to relevant issues. Jesus connected with people right where they were. He didn’t pull any punches or make things tame. And yet people wanted to hear what was going on.
And yet somehow today we’ve messed things up…
 
Either we dumb things down and soften his message. We focus on “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
Or we go to the other extreme and condemn people… “if you don’t follow the plan, you will burn in hell forever.”
And although this is Biblically accurate…it’s not the way Jesus would have done it.
 
As THE church (UNIVERSAL) community we have reduced the Gospel to a snoozer that will occasionally scare the pants off you. We need to change the narrative. We need to do what Jesus did…we need to connect people to the exciting, life changing story of Jesus…starting where they need it the most. Isn’t that what he did?
 
The woman at the well needed to know she was loved,
John 4:39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”
 
Zacchaeus needed to know he was important,
Luke 19:9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
 
Matthew needed to know he was forgiven. Matthew 9:12-13 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
 
If we want to change the perception about us…then we need to care about them!
Jesus met people where they were and addressed their needs first. Before preaching the gospel, before speaking about hell, before anything else Jesus connected with what they needed…
 
Starbucks preaches its “Four Pillars: anticipate, connect, personalize, and own. The first pillar – anticipate, is the pursuit to live hospitably, anticipate the needs of the customers. This is what Jesus did. And as Christians, we have to anticipate the needs of our Neighbors…reaching beyond the sanctuary walls into our community. What does my neighbor need right now…today? When we care – our neighbor’s natural response is exactly what Mr. Rogers started with – they will WONDER. They’ll wonder why we care? Why we responded? Why we went out of our way to meet their need? When we act with the genuine love that we’ve received – it opens the door to share our story about when we first received love. We can earn the opportunity to share what God has done…and what He is doing in our lives – when we FIRST meet people’s needs.
 
Part of the problem with our stories is that we have reduced the story of God to something like this: Adam and Eve sinned. Jesus died to make it right. We acknowledge sin and point to redemption but it keeps the story centered around us. We forget what came before and what comes after.
We see over and over that it starts with sharing Jesus and we need to share what Jesus shared…compelling stories of life change. We need to share with passion and purpose…excitement and energy…we need to speak of church as a place for restoration…not just “rest”. Rick Warren claims the purpose or mission of the church, itself, must drive all things connected to the church life. While this mega church pastor would never claim that method is more important than the message of the Gospel, and believing the message never changes, Warren does, however, emphasize the importance of the church in understanding that the methods of reaching out to the community must change with each generation. What has worked in the past may or may not work in the future…the message doesn’t change…just the presentation.
 
This morning we’d like to reminisce a bit about the life change and transformation that has happened right here in the church. We too quickly forget what God has done…and so we don’t share it. I want you to watch these stories and remember what God has done…and even think about What God IS DOING in your life right now…
How did you do? Do you see what God has done? Are you seeing what God is doing in your life right now?
You might not…it’s very possible that you’re struggling right now to know what God is doing in your life…and so you’re struggling to know what story you have to share.
 
Let me tell you – if you want to understand YOUR story – we have to understand God’s story. Only when we understand what God is doing will we understand WHERE we fit in.
 
In the beginning, God created us in His image…both us and our neighbors are created in the image of God. And then fast forward to the end of the story – in Revelation in the end, God will create a new heaven and new earth. Everything will be restored to its original goodness.
 
And all that’s important because – we are invited to play a role in that restoration work.
 
When we remember how the story begins and ends, we find connection points with our own individual stories. When we remember the author and the protagonist of the story, we better understand our place and role in it.
It’s a story of bondage to liberation. It’s a story of isolation to reconciliation. It’s a story of darkness to light and good defeating evil.
 
The story of God reminded people who they were, whose they were, where they were going, why they were going there, and how they were supposed to live once they arrived. It reminded them they were no longer enslaved, but free. They were no longer isolated, but connected. They were no longer walking in darkness, but light. God was not far, but near.
How well do we know the story of God? Are we able to tell the story of God?
 
So if we know where God started and where He’s going…how do we fit in? What story is He writing in our lives?
When has He shown up? Where has he given you a glimpse of His character? His grace? His mercy? When has He invited you to partner with him in the work he is doing around the world?
John 9 talks about a man who was born blind. A man that was healed by Jesus with a little mud. Then the religious/political leaders call this guy in to make a statement about who Jesus’ was. Interestingly enough he said…
 
John 9:25 “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”
 
He didn’t make some grand declaration…he told his story and let them decide.
When Paul was dragged in front of the King to defend his teachings, he didn’t give a sermon; he told his story about meeting Jesus on the road side. Just like Stephen in the book of Acts, he didn’t defend himself with theology Stephen shared his story – his testimony. It’s all about letting people see LIFE CHANGE!
Steve Hayner – (Retired President of Columbia Theological Seminary and former Pres. Of The Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship) He points out, “The church must remember just as we have received [the love of Jesus] so we are called to give. It is not that what we have to offer makes us better off than the world. It is what we have to offer has made us better and we want those in the world to experience the same joy.”
Most people outside the church engage the church when they’re invited by someone within the church. And the invitation is not necessarily to come to church for worship, but to experience church in a nonthreatening way and that is through your story.
 
David Platt, (Camp Speaker this summer and current the president of the SBC International Mission Board,)
In Jesus’ simple command to “make disciples,” he has invited every one of his followers to share the life of Christ with others in a sacrificial, intentional, global effort to multiply the gospel of Christ through others. He never intended to limit this invitation to the most effective communicators, the most brilliant organizers, or the most talented leaders and artists—all the allegedly right people that you and I are prone to exalt in the church.
When we tell our stories, do we make them compelling, inviting, and relevant? Compelling stories cause people to lean in and listen more. Inviting stories give people a role to play. Relevant stories make sense in the world we live in.
Changing our reputation with the world around us begins with knowing the story of God. Then it becomes personal when we understand the chapters He’s writing in our own lives, but all of this is powered by prayer.
 
Walter Wink a New York theology professor says, “History belongs to the intercessors.”
 
When you pray things change. People that pray don’t watch history happen. They make history happen. And when you think about the impact of prayer in your life, do you realize that it fuels God’s story?
Prayer moves God’s story down the road. It’s our prayer that impacts our story.
Pray. Pray together. Pray through the scriptures. And don’t forget to give thanks to God for answered prayers. For us to change the view from the neighborhood we have to know the stories around us. We have to know our stories and our neighbor’s stories so we can see God working everything together. We won’t relate to people if we don’t understand the environment God’s been creating. And people won’t relate to us if we aren’t interested in their stories.
What’s the history of our neighborhood? Of our neighbors? Of our offices?
 
Where has God already been at work? How can we make the story of God relevant to the stories of those around us? Only when we can connect – when we live life together – and show the love we’ve received will the church grow like it did in Acts.
 
I want to re-introduce to you Brandon and Deborah…when they walked in this morning most everyone here had no idea who they were. When they stood up to sing the majority of the people in this room likely didn’t pay attention to the new faces up on the platform.
 
But now…having heard their story, their passion to serve God, their struggle to grow a family, their willingness to follow God wherever…will you pray for them? Will you meet their needs, will you be their neighbor? God is at work in their lives.
God has been at work writing your story, the miraculous life change. Will you share your story? Will you reach out to the neighbors in need…meet their need and share your story?

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