Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What Is Your Response To The Resurrection?

This post is inspired by a creative and reflective time of worship led by the Master of Arts in Vocational Practice - Church Practice stream students at Tabor College today for their subject "Leading People in the Presence of God."

Just for fun, imagine if social media existed 2000 years ago and Jesus' status indeed read "Risen"?  I wonder what responses to His status by those first confronted with His resurrection may have read like?  


Let's take a lighthearted look at how those first on the scene might have responded in 21st century social media language:

"Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed...Then the disciples went back to where they were staying." (John 20:8-10)

Peter & John's status: BRB

"Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”)." (John 20:16)

Mary Magdalene's status:  <3

"After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord." (John 20:20)

Disciples status:  LOL

"Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

Thomas status:  OMG

Back to reality.  Each of these eyewitnesses responded to the resurrection of Jesus with an urgency, love, joy and faith that gave witness to an event that still has the power to change lives today! What is your response when you are confronted with the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Adopting A Posture Of Learning

After 17 years of full time ministry one of the things I still get excited about is the continual pathway of learning that is expanding my heart and mind with new paradigms of thinking while stretching me with new experiences as I integrate what I learn into my leadership and ministry.

In my current unit of study I read a quote, in the context of language and cross-cultural witness, that aptly describes Christian discipleship:

"Christianity is so well demonstrated by those who take a learning posture." - Charles H. Kraft

A disciple is postured as a life-long learner

A disciple is submitted to the teaching of Holy Spirit

A disciple is committed to becoming like Jesus Christ

A disciple is determined to pursue the will of God

By adopting a posture of learning we engage in a journey of transformation and growth that not only changes us, but changes others when our learning becomes a shared experience.  I had a leader from my previous church once say to me mid semester, "We get the best of both worlds.  We get to learn from what you are studying without having to do all the reading!"  This was a real time affirmation that my posture of learning is about way more than earning a degree, but about making disciples and developing leaders.  In fact, my posture of learning is putting skin on my leadership platform - "to equip the people of God to do the work of the ministry to build up the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12).

John Maxwell teaches why a posture of learning is so important, “Your leadership, if it is not continually growing, can be a lid to the potential of your people. Why? Because you teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are. You can’t give people what you do not have. If you want to increase the potential of your team, you need to keep growing yourself.”  

How much more is this true for making disciples and growing the church?!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jesus's Last Words

If the last words of the crucified Jesus, “It is finished” was the end of the story on Good Friday, then I’m not sure why anybody would consider Christianity? But Friday was not the end of the story. Sunday was still to come!

The last words of the resurrected Jesus, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” give us every reason to consider Christianity, because Jesus is alive and gives us the promise of eternal life that begins the moment we acknowledge His presence in our lives.

The simple, yet profound truth of the Easter story is that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Jesus Crossed Over Social Divisions

Today I preached the final message in a series leading up to Easter Sunday called "CROSS Cultures" where I explored how Jesus crossed over the ethnic, religious, political and social cultures of His day to fulfill God's plan of salvation for ALL of humankind. Below is an outline of this message from Matthew 28:1-10... 

On this resurrection Sunday we conclude our ‘CROSS Cultures’ series by looking at the final culture crossed by Jesus – Social Divisions. 

Every society is marked by social divisions that establish cultural classes, dividing people into a hierarchical structure based on economics, gender, politics, race, or religion, to name a few. People living at the bottom of this social hierarchical structure understand what it is like to be subject to prejudice or victimisation. One such class of people within Jewish culture living near the bottom of a Greco-Roman society was women. Women had limited rights and a low status in their society. A reality that has unfortunately plagued women ever since in almost every culture!  

What I find fascinating about the resurrection story, and the reason I have chosen to focus on women as an example of the social divisions crossed by Jesus, is how they are featured in this story. When you consider that something as significant as the resurrection of the crucified Christ, which had enormous political and religious implications, was first communicated to women - it should demand our attention!

Let’s take a closer look at Matthew’s account of the resurrection story…  

"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb."  (28:1)

  • Out of all the people in the life of Jesus, the women were first at the tomb

"There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said."  (28:2-6)

  • Out of all the people in the life of Jesus, the angel spoke first to the women

"Come and see the place where he lay."  (28:6)

  • Out of all the people in the life of Jesus, the women were invited to “come and see”

"Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.’  So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said."  (28:7-9)

  • Out of all the people in the life of Jesus, He chose to appear to the women first

"They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him."  (28:9)
  • Out of all the people in the life of Jesus, the women were first to worship the resurrected Christ

"Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’"  (28:10)

  • Out of all the people in the life of Jesus, He chose the women to tell His closest followers

The women received a revelation of the risen Christ when they were told to come and see.
The women received a commission by the risen Christ when they were told to go and tell.  

The women were liberated from any social divisions by being chosen to be witnesses to the single most important event of human history that is foundational to Christian faith! This is something that seems to have been overlooked by those who continue to deny women the right to lead, minister or preach in the Church! It defies logic and biblical credibility to me!!  

Just as the resurrection of Jesus Christ tore the veil in the temple, crossing religious barriers, giving all of human kind access to God; the resurrection of Jesus Christ also crosses social divisions affirming Paul’s message that, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).  

By crossing social divisions, Jesus is saying to each one of us, regardless of our position in the church or society, come and see the resurrected Christ and go and tell others the good news!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Culture Shock!

Standing at Flinders Street Station with my very excited 14 year old son viewing the monitors for a connecting train, an announcement caught our attention with the information we were looking for, "A special service to the Showgrounds for the Supanova Pop Culture Expo will depart on platform 9 in five minutes."  As we made our way down the escalator to the platform I felt as though we were entering another universe.  Scores of pop culture fanatics were dressed in full costume bringing alive every imaginable comic, animated and science-fiction character from their imaginary worlds.  To say I felt like a foreigner in another land would be an understatement!

From the train to the show grounds my feeling of cultural displacement reached new heights as I mingled in this imaginary world where my senses were overwhelmed by crowds of people of all ages passionately interacting with the exhibits of this pop culture.  It was then that it occurred to me I was experiencing the same reality as those who enter the church for the first time where people dress, speak and act in a foreign manner.  To an outsider, the foreign culture of a church must feel every bit as strange as Supanova did to me!

Through this surreal cultural experience I observed a number of parallels with the church:

  • A strong cultural following elicits a high level of devotion by its followers
  • Passionate people are prepared to look foolish to others to express their passion
  • Like-minded people want to gather in community with others who share a cultural connection
  • People are willing to invest a large amount of money into something they believe in
  • There is a distinct language that can make outsiders feel disconnected within the culture
  • A specific dress code may connect with insiders but dissociate outsiders
  • Cultural expressions are often misunderstood without their associated meanings

I belong to a church that has its own very distinct subculture within the culture of Christianity, complete with a uniform, hierarchical structure, language, expression of worship and mission, rules and regulations, that can have a similar effect on outsiders as I experienced at Supernova.  The challenge for The Salvation Army, and any other church, is to examine our distinct cultures through the eyes and experience of an outsider to assess how well we connect with those we seek to reach.

We may then consider changing, adapting or explaining our cultural expressions to minimise the cultural shock for those encountering our culture for the first time.