TFC is going through some changes and I'm quite excited about it. I shared our fiscal-year goals with the church in June and they're listed on my blog here.
I'm glad to report that we're taking some steps in three of these goals: 1) Continuing to focus beyond ourselves, 2) Parents discipling their children and 3) Increased generosity.
1) During our last discussion time, we celebrated a member of our congregation's focus on serving people at their workplace. It was a great teaching opportunity for explain that we are The Church 24/7, that encouraging someone who is having a bad day is just as much Church as being gathered together on Sunday mornings to study the scriptures. This is a small step but it's vital for helping people understand the biblical idea of The Body of Christ. We are always the body, not just when we get together. In fact, the times when we're not together are more vital for being the body than when we're together. In fact, when God first begins to gather the people that would be his body on earth, he tells Abram, "The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”- Genesis 12:1-3
The church exists not to gather (though that's a part of our rhythm) but to scatter and bless the world around us.
Which also explains why for the past year or so, I've stopped saying "welcome to church" on Sunday mornings and have dropped the phrase "going to church" from my vocabulary. Rather, we are the church. And I welcome people "to worship."
2) Last Wednesday, Noel and Dawn Forrester began discussion group / class designed to help parents become more intentional about teaching their kids to know God. We discussed some ideas and went through some sample family devotional activities. Noel said a few things that really hit home with me.
- Our kids are watching us all the time and they will imitate what they see. For a funny example of that, click here.
- We have to be patient with our kids, not expecting them to get it all at once and not forcing a lesson on them. Rather, we become patient enough to let them learn some things on their own and accept that it will take some trial-and-error for them to learn. I'm not patient...
- The family is the primary place where children learn about God. Noel said that he's always viewed what Pastor Andy does with the kids on Sunday as either supplemental or a discussion-starter. We can't expect church programming to replace parental instruction.
This class is also a step toward fulfilling another goal for this year, which is to "Pastor each other." I was being pastored by Noel and Dawn during that class while watching other people pastor each other.
3) At our first Advisory Council of this fiscal year, we were working through the budget when Brian Hupe suggested we take the money we'd allocated toward donuts and re-direct that money toward the Bangladesh project. Here's some info on the Bangladesh project from our weekly:
"TFC is partnering with a church in Korea (of which many former TFCers are a part) to build communities for widows and orphans in Bangladesh. When a woman becomes a widow in Bangladesh, they lose all their property and finances and are left with the option of prostitution or subsistence servitude. The death of the father also makes the children orphans. These orphans only forced to the street, where they also often turn to prostitution to survive. The Church of the Nazarene is building communities in Bangladesh that will bring together widows and orphans, rescuing both groups from the street and giving them employment and a new family. These communities will also be introducing a Muslim population to the love of Jesus Christ.
For $500, we can build a garden that will feed the widows and orphans in these communities. Please make checks out to TFC and put “Bangladesh” in the memo line. We’ll be collecting money until Labor Day Sunday."
It's not a lot of money, simply $500. But for TFC, it's a huge step. I can't help but think, "one small step for a church budget, one huge step for the mission of God." A massive change in direction from an attractional model to a missional model. Think about all the money churches use to create a positive guest/ shopping experience for people who show up for worship. My former mind-set was "we've gotta make it as comfortable and welcoming of environment as possible so the new person will a) come back and b) make an intellectual assent of belief in Jesus Christ. Donuts are all for the gospel."
Well, my mindset has changed in a couple ways. First of all, I'm come to understand gospel as WAY bigger than an individual accepting Jesus and getting their butts out of hell - though that's a small step toward living gospel. I've also realized that if you train people to expect to be catered to or to consume things "offered" by the church, they're missing what it means to follow Jesus and they'll eventually leave your church when they find another congregation that "offers" more.
But, don't take this as me saying that a church buying donuts is wrong or that people should never change churches. Rather, I'm talking about viewing the church through a different lens than what most of us (myself included) have been looking through.
Well, now instead of giving donuts to already well-fed Johnson Countians, TFC is providing enough money to build a sustainable garden that will feed orphans and widows who would've been on the street if not for the orphanage.
The Jesus I see in the Gospels would smile at that change in direction. Historians would affirm these steps as a return to some ideals of the early church. Theologians would likely affirm these steps as a move toward a more biblical view of church. And the Holy Spirit will let us know when it's time to take some more steps in this direction.