Good News and Better News … April 18th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Antioch

Yesterday it was my joy to share my heart with dear souls in Antioch, Tennessee.

In the Book of Acts, it informs us that Antioch was the first city where the new believers in Jesus were referred to as “Christians.” It was meant to be a derogatory term, thrown at this new movement by the arrogant Greeks, who were trying to connote that the people who believed in the Nazarene were just a bunch of “little Jesuses.”

In other words, they had no mind of their own.

I didn’t talk about this to the people yesterday because I figured that over the years they have probably grown weary of the reference. But it did help me realize that the term “Christian” has become synonymous with going to church, or being religious, instead of being like Jesus.

Jesus frustrated religious people. After a while they got tired of being frustrated, so they decided to murder him.

Even though your average church-going people will admit that attendance is dwindling and that people seem to be “leaving the steeple,” they still insist that there’s basically nothing errant with what’s going on behind the stained glass windows.

Here is something I have learned:

If it’s not working, it’s probably not going to get better just because you keep doing it. And if it’s not working, the first step is to admit it’s broken, and then commit to getting it fixed.

The problem in the church is simple–it is a body of believers working under a false premise. The false premise is that we please God by gathering to worship Him.

Jesus made it clear that we please God by being the salt of the Earth and the light of the world.

Can you see the difference?

So as I leave Antioch, having had a tremendous morning of fellowship with these dear friends, I can offer them a simple suggestion:

Do one thing.

Yes–just start pursuing one thing that’s different from what you’re doing now. And make sure it doesn’t resemble anything like the present menu offered in church.

Maybe you could adopt one family in the community every week, take $150 and buy them groceries and shoes for the kids. Put a committee in charge of this endeavor.

Then on Sunday morning you can share, having something for prayer time other than weddings, funerals, births and sicknesses.

How about challenging twenty people from your congregation to volunteer just one hour a week in area nursing homes, food banks or homeless shelters–and then have them testify of their encounters.

Maybe the pastor could do the same thing–or take a small part-time job to increase his or her humanity in the community. Play guitar? Start a cover band and play at the local bar on Saturday nights prior to the Sunday services.

Take something that is non-church but filled with Jesus and act it out in your community every week, and see if something doesn’t bloom.

It’s not complicated. I could probably sit here for another twenty minutes and pop off more ideas.

But the notions have to come from the congregation and be a source of excitement to them to make it work.

If we don’t develop a sense of mission about bringing the heart of Jesus to our community, we will gradually implode from over-reverence or bickering from the choir about which anthem should be used for the Introit.

Jesus was simple:

Find a way to be loving, and then go act it out.

So as I leave Antioch, filled with a spirit of joy from encountering these delightful “little Jesuses,” I tell you that your good news is that all you need is one thing to do that is not religious, and that will bring real people into your presence.

The better news is that you’re not responsible for the fruit.

Just the seed.

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Jesonian: Rome, Jerusalem and Antioch… July 19th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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streetwalking Jesus

The religious system is confused.

Confusion normally sets in when what we have set out to do fails miserably, and rather than admitting our lacking, we choose to cover it up with freshly concocted stupidity.

All the churches in the United States are desperately trying to hang on to every blade of grass to keep from falling off the cliff into oblivion.

The level of disinterest for all things spiritual is growing daily. Rather than allowing for candid reflection and legitimate repentance, a strange sense of nostalgia has set in, causing these diminishing denominations to grab on to one of two efforts: to either become more Rome or more Jerusalem.

For some it’s an issue of attempting to return to the tenets of the Mother Church in Rome and put greater emphasis on sacraments, liturgy, tradition and form. They cite statistics telling them that most people want their church services to be somber, guarded and filled with relics of childhood memories of spirituality.

  • So communion around the table becomes more important than communion of the saints.
  • Repetition of words becomes more prevalent than the repetition of our ongoing commitment to one another.

Although many of them are Protestant, they secretly yearn for a reconciliation with Catholicism.

Then there are those who think the key to expanding their spiritual borders and increasing their attendance is Jerusalem:

  • More emphasis on praise, worship, Old Testament practices and an apocalyptic geyser of predictions concerning the end of the world.
  • If you can’t make people happy, then make them glad they’re sad because they’re waiting for Jesus to come back and make everything right.

And even though Jesus continues to stand at the door of all of these churches and knock, no one opens up to him because all of them are possessed by forms of godliness while denying the power of the Gospel to transform our everyday experiences.

There is a third choice. It is characterized in the Book of Acts by a body of believers who lived in Antioch.

  • They were not Jews.
  • They were not Romans nor Greeks.

They rejected the term “Gentile” and instead embraced a new name: Christian.

It was a mocking title placed upon them by their pseudo-intellectual neighbors, referring to this new breed of thinker as “Little Jesuses.”

They liked it.

They understood that to be a follower of Jesus was to embrace the lifestyle he proclaimed in his Sermon on the Mount and in all his dealings with his fellow-humans.

The Roman church will not give us the intimacy required to show mercy to others. We’re too interested in our own absolution.

The Jerusalem church will not provide us enough Jesus of Nazareth to transform the lives of the congregation from Old Covenant to New Covenant. And looking to the eastern sky for a Second Coming eliminates a vision of the entire horizon.

We must go back to being Christians–but in the style of Antioch, not Rome or Jerusalem.

That particular position functions with two Jesonian tenets:

  1. We should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
  2. And we will love our neighbor as ourselves.

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