Monday, October 18, 2010

Blessing Sunday

I'm a little late on posting this, but on Sunday, Oct. 10th we had a "blessing Sunday." One week before, however, I challenged everyone to bless three people during the week, making sure one of those people didn't deserve the blessing, then share those blessing stories the next Sunday. I also gave the biblical foundation for this role of blessing others. Most of our time that Sunday morning was spent in small groups, sharing our blessing stories. It was a very powerful time. That afternoon, our Advisory Council shared some ideas on how we could make the sharing of blessing stories a regular part of our time together. The main idea was that we'd make the question "how were you a blessing to someone during the past week" a regular part of our discussion time.

I'll post an excerpt from my message on Oct. 3rd below, but I want to share some reasons for why we're focusing on blessing others.

First of all, I'm trying to deconstruct the attractional idea of church that most of us hold onto. I keep telling our people that church is not a place to which they go, it's a people we are. Church isn't Sunday AM at 10:30 at PRMS, it's a 24-7 lifestyle. We can't go to church anymore than someone can go to the Miller family. The Miller family can have regular get-togethers that we attend but we're always the Miller family whether we're together or not. The same is true of church. By sharing what has happened during the previous week, I'm hoping we get a clearer picture of church as a lifestyle, not a place or organization.

Secondly, I'm trying to help us continue to become more others-focused. As I shared in that message and have been reading lately, the church exists to bless the world. And in blessing the world, we reveal God's heart for the world to the world we're blessing. We don't exist for ourselves but for the world's sake. In his book, Missional Renaissance, Reggie McNeal challenges churches to forgo their evangelism strategy (a strategy most people aren't following anyway) and instead adopt a blessing strategy. As my DS was sharing with me over lunch yesterday, we've reduced evangelism to the sharing of a few verses and trying to get people to pray a certain prayer. A more holistic / New Testament view of evangelism is better communicated through this idea of a blessing strategy. People don't get excited about a pre-packaged evangelism sales-pitch, but they do, as one lady shared last Sunday, get fired up about the chance to bless people. Of course, in the midst of this blessing a New Testament form of evangelism is blooming in full.

Here's the excerpt from my sermon on Oct. 3rd:

To share some biblical ideas on church, I want us to go to the very beginning of church. Very beginning, Genesis 12. This is the where we meet Abraham and Sarah, although at this point, they’re still named Abram and Sarai. If you had a Mount Rushmore of bible dudes, Abraham would be on it. Anyone who grew up in church remember the song, “Father Abraham?” Many sons… Well, he really did have many sons. Anyone of Arabian or Jewish descent can trace their lineage back to Abraham. And if you think about it, that’s pretty incredible. Because at the time of the passage we’re about to read, Abraham was 75, Sarah was 65 and they had NO KIDS! A great biblical theme is that God’s a fan of the underdog. He chooses people who don’t have a prayer, so to speak and uses them to accomplish great things. It’s to make sure God gets the credit, not them. By the time Abraham and Sarah had a child together, Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. I hope when I’m 100…

God’s plan was that he would take the offspring of Abraham and Sarah and turn them into his body. This nation of Israel would be the people of God, God’s body on earth. The people through whom God would share his character with the rest of the world. Genesis 12:1-9 To summarize a pretty long story, eventually the role of “people of God” was changed from the nation of Israel to the church. We became the new Israel. The apostle Paul explained it this way, Romans 11:17

We may not be Abraham’s physical descendants but we’ve been adopted into God’s family and we’re now Abraham’s spiritual descendants. The church lives out this role of being God’s body in this world. With this understanding that we’ve been grafted into the lineage of Abraham, I want to look back at God’s initial promise and calling to Abraham in Genesis 12. One verse in particular, God blessed Abraham so that Abraham could be the father of a great nation. That nation was brought into existence, why? So they could bless the whole rest of the world. The people of God exist to be a blessing. We are here to bless others. But we so often miss that. Somehow we make it about us. Whether it’s to get more people at the show or to make a bigger name for ourselves or to have a more comfortable life. In so many different ways, we’ve come to think we’ve been blessed for our own sake. But this is really nothing new. Eventually, the descendants of Israel became more focused on holding onto the promised land than their primary role of blessing the world. The land of Canaan was given to them so as to be their base from which they could bless the world. But their focus got turned inward. And the people of God still give into the temptation to make it about us.

All that I’ve just shared is to lead to this one point – or this one challenge. My challenge to you this week is that you will be a blessing to three people this week. Find a way to bless three people this week in specific ways. And, don’t miss this, make sure that at least one of them doesn’t deserve it.

Of course, none of us deserve God’s blessing. But he does it anyway. You see it all throughout scripture, God blesses everyone – not because they deserve it – but because that’s just what he likes to do. The good news of the gospel is that we all get the undeserved blessings of God. We’ve been blessed to be a blessing. Now just to make sure we’re clear. What’s your responsibility this week? Bless three people, including one who doesn’t deserve it. Next Sunday, we’re going to devote most of our time together to sharing stories of how God has blessed other people through our lives. Next Sunday is “Blessing story Sunday.” If you don’t have any stories, it will be a really short time together. But I’m pretty sure we’ll have some great stories to share.

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