Sky Links 6-11-15

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0

And they were all together in one place...
-Acts 2:1

A Church For All Ages

Do you dream of a church where all ages are present?  I do.  J.R. Miller wrote some ideas about what his church has done to make this workable.  His church formulated, through a consensus of the adults, a list of expectations:

 Adults need to "Put on love" so we don't 'porcupine' each other!  But what about the kids?  J.R. Miller wrote a

This list of expectations would be like a fence around a playground; it would keep our kids feeling safe, yet not restricted. The list of expectations would be like a guardrail along a cliff; it would provide security without unnecessary restriction.

So here is what we did.

The adults sat down during one of our gatherings and each of us listed behaviors we felt acceptable or unacceptable. This was a great opportunity for us, as parents, to build trust in one another to be responsible for holding all the kids accountable to our shared expectations.
J.R. Miller, What can we do with all these kids

Kevin Brown just wrote about why the "family of God" should gather all together, with all ages:

This fact seems almost strange in our day and age when, in many churches, we send our children off to “Children’s Church” to eat snacks, color and watch videos. Yet, as we study the Scriptures, we can’t find any verses in the entire Bible where the children were pulled out of the meeting. It would have been completely unorthodox to do so. There is never a time or an instance in Scripture when the children were separated from the parents/family when the people of God met together. At this point, I’m reminded of Jesus and his rebuke of the disciples for not allowing the children to come to him recorded in Mark 10:13-14:

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

I know for many churches, the idea of having young children in our services is very counter-cultural. Many church leaders and members say the children are too noisy and disruptive and people can’t worship the Lord. Yet, when we say these things, we are much like the disciples when they tried to shoo away the children. Consequently, in our day, we have lost the blessing of the full body being together in the meeting. Sadly, we have become comfortable with some of the body missing. How have we gotten to this point? The Church wasn’t this way in the New Testament or even 40 to 50 years ago. It has happened, because it’s convenient...

...Children are a blessing of a growing church, not a nuisance.

I am grateful for a church that is literally willing to suffer for the children. I’m grateful for my granddaughter’s church, Parkview Baptist, in Morehead City, NC. They allow Charlotte to be with them. Thank you Pastor David Mills!

Yes, a church should allow families to worship together as a part of the onefamily. Churches have the opportunity to tell the body, (a family of families), that all are welcome at the Lord’s Table, even our youngest. I know for many reading this, seeing church life in this way is a total paradigm shift and would be a significant change in philosophy, church culture and practice at your church. But, I promise you what I’ve described to you embodies biblical patterns that can successfully be integrated in the fabric of any church if we’ll take the risk of being biblical versus convenient. :)
D. Kevin Brown, Why Do We Have Babies and Small Children in Our Church Services?

The photo is from a story about a house church, from NPR- Swapping Steeples For Sofas.

Robert Stamps: "The supper of the Lord is a place where Christ is appointed for the church to meet him."

Dr. Robert Stamps teaches that what happens to us, by Christ, in communion, is the purpose of it.  Stamps has a PhD in Eucharistic Theology.  The emphasis of remembrance or memorializing Christ gets it wrong, says Stamps, because communion or The Eucharist is not about the past, but about the kingdom breaking in now.

Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance.", not, "Remember as you do this."  The "this" is Jesus working today in people's lives (together), delivering and saving them to be his disciples.  The "this" is not a hushed (memorial) moment.  Christ's life is celebrated in a meal with laughter and weeping, sharing life in his life.

The "table" is the table at your house, or in your "upper room", and not a special table, on a stage, or at an alter.  Your table might be a tv tray or a blanket spread on the floor or ground.  The table is the place between us where we experience the presence of Christ.  That's Holy Communion, The Lord's Supper, or The Eucharist.

The message of the Lord's Supper, Communion, or The Eucharist (and The Gospel); is that God comes to your house, to your table, into your world, in this world.  We've had it backwards.

Stamps said,

"We don't just reflect. Jesus Christ is a living presence. And when the church has communion, and 'remembers' him, we remember as an encounter... John Wesley said we believe in a real presence with a real encounter. Jesus Christ is not a distant savior back there in history. Jesus Christ is alive and present to us in the Holy Spirit... So, the question is not one of how he is present, but what his presence will do to us."
Robert Stamps- The Meaning of Communion

Dr. Stamps is a longtime friend of Wayne Jacobsen (Finding Church) and has been on Wayne's show recently and in the past:
"The supper of the Lord is a place where Christ is appointed for the church to meet him."

Broken 'People Pickers'

Many of us have trouble in our friendships.  Friendships are very unsatisfying when they are one-sided, when you do most of the giving, while the other person mostly takes.  We are all in the process of 'growing up'.  Donald Miller wrote, Do You Filter Your Friendships?  You Probably Should. :

Growing up as a Christian I was taught I should forgive and accept everybody. I still
believe that. But what forgiving and accepting has looked like over the years has changed.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received was given to me by my friend Ben. We were taking a break from a writing project, sitting out on my deck when I brought up some trouble I was having with a friend. I’d grown a little tired of this friend using me and I was losing trust.

Ben said something I’d never forget.

He said You know, Don, there are givers and takers in this life, I got rid of the takers years ago and I’ve been better for it. I’d recommend you do the same. To be sure, this was reductionistic but Ben was making a general point.

The point is this: Some people aren’t trustworthy. He’s right. And if we don’t believe that, I think we’re being naive.

Don Miller: Do You Filter Your Friendships?  You Probably Should

Don highly recommends the book, Safe People, by Henry Cloud & John Townsend.

The Biggest Mistake a Successful Church Planter Can Make 

Aaron Gloy is the pastor of a 5 year old church. He recently wrote about how church planting and

disciple making are two different things:

I was trained in all the conventional methods of planting a church. But what I wasn’t trained in and what I failed to think through entirely was how we were going to make disciples.

This is rather problematic when you consider that Jesus never commanded us to plant churches. He commanded us to make disciples. Now when you effectively make disciples I believe church planting becomes inevitable, but it is very possible to plant churches and never get around to actually making disciples.

I thought, studied and planned relentlessly when it came to planting our church, but disciple making wasn’t given nearly the same kind of attention. I assumed that if we moved people into small groups it would just sort of happen on its own. This is easily the biggest mistake I’ve made as a pastor and church planter...

Aaron Gloy- The Biggest Mistake I Made As A Church Planter.

NT Wright: "Jesus is the hinge on which the great door of history swings...  'As the Father has sent me, so I send you', is the key to the Church's mission."     

Shane Blackshear interviewed NT Wright on his show.  I was deeply impacted by his words on Jesus and the kingdom and the church.  I found this book and his chapter in it, where he speaks on this more.  He takes up the issue of holding together the kingdom, the cross, and the resurrection.

"He is the crucified, resurrected, kingdom-bringer, and Israel's Messiah.  His crucifixion established the kingdom, his resurrection established him as Messiah.  On the cross, he did the work of Messiah, defeating the powers of evil, conquering death.  His resurrection means new creation has come, now and here." -NT Wright

This is Wright, from the 2010 Wheaton Theology Conference, on his work, that became this book; Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright.  These words are from his address & chapter entitled, "Whence and Whither, Historical Jesus studies in The Life of the Church?":

"...What about fresh readings of the Gospels in the service if the church?

What is the "so what"? This, I believe, is not basically about apologetics... but about mission.

Somehow, the whole complex of kingdom, cross, and resurrection must play out into a full-orbed gospel-rooted mission which will be significantly unlike the social gospel mission that forgot about the cross, or the "Jesus died for you" mission that forgot about the kingdom.

One of the great breakthrough moments for me when I was first struggling with historical Jesus questions was John 20:21: "As the father has sent me, so I send you."

That derivative correspondence - the "as" and the "so", with Jesus' own mission the source and the template for that of his followers, as they receive the Spirit- suddenly opens up an entire hermeneutical world, demanding that the church again and again study the historical mission of Jesus not just to find out the back history of the crucified and risen One, but to realign itself with the shape and content of that mission in order to carry out its own.

Jesus' own mission becomes the template and the energizing force for all that the church has to do and be. We are to be for the world what Jesus was for Israel.

You will only understand the mission of the church in the world if, instead of using the canon as a closed story, a charmed circle in which it means what it means, but which you can't break into or out of, you go back to Jesus himself, which is what the canon is pleading with you to do, so that you can then see who he was and is and then discern, in the power of the Spirit, what (who?) we have to do and be.

If you want to know what it looks like, read the book of Acts: a story of doing the kingdom, bearing the kingdom, suffering for the kingdom, and eventually announcing the kingdom under the nose of Caesar himself. That is what it looks like when the church goes out, with the breath of Jesus in our lungs, to tell the world that he is its rightful Lord.

Sometimes people get hurt; sometimes a thousand people get converted ; sometimes all sorts of things in between take place; and somehow the Gospel gets to Rome, to the center of human power and authority, to announce there that Jesus is Lord and God is king, openly and unhindered.

To do this, however, the church needs constantly to reconnect with the real Jesus, who the canonical Gospels give us but whom we have so badly misunderstood. The world will pull these things apart again, will lure us into the smaller worlds of either social work or saving souls for a disembodied eternity.

Our various Western worldviews will force on us political agendas that are culled from elsewhere, which we can feel good about because they don't have the cross attached to them.

-NT Wright: "Jesus and the People of God: Whence and Whither Historical Jesus Studies and the Life of the Church."-Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright By Nicholas Perrin, Richard B. Hays (pp. 151-2).  The original audio of Wright's lecture is here.

Engaging The LGBTQ Community

I listened to Debra Hirsch's Seminar on "Enagaging The LGBTQ Community".  Debra Hirsch is the author of Redeeming Sex.  Here are some endorsements of her book:

"With lived experience, direct frankness and a pastoral heart, Deb Hirsch addresses the church on sexuality. In so doing, Redeeming Sex prepares the way for the places the church must go to be 'among' today's confused and strife-ridden world of sexuality. It is a vulnerable gift that moves us beyond faulty stereotypes and pre-set notions. I cannot think of a better book to start the conversation."
-David Fitch"

Debra Hirsch's own story—and what she learned about sex before and after meeting Jesus—is both convincing and convicting. But the book is more than testimony. Debra makes intelligent, faithful use of Scripture and of authors who have engaged with this topic. She also untangles key differences between sexuality and cultural roles. Noting the Bible's extensive 'sexual language and imagery,' Debra affirms that 'our sexuality lies close to our spirituality.' Her book can lead Christians to an integration of sex and sanctity that enriches both—and makes us more faithful and redemptive disciples of Jesus Christ." 
-Howard A. Snyder
"I'm so grateful to Deb Hirsch for writing the best book on this conversation I have read. It speaks to the heart of our identity in Christ. It addresses complex and sensitive realities and tensions with grace, love, compassion, truth, justice and mercy. It is prophetic, profound, candid, transparent and should be read by every Christian. It will challenge you to the core, but we can no longer stick our heads in the sand and ignore the fact that people are hurting and need real answers to real issues. I am giving a copy of this book to everyone I know. It's that important." 
-Christine Caine

Deb Hirsch: Engaging The LGBTQ Community - Exponential Podcast (you  might need to subscribe)
Redeeming Sex (Amazon link)
A 4 minute video primer from Deb Hirsch, on the topic in her book.