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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Good News and Better News … February 15th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News and Better News Windsor UMC

A carefully constructed bulletin.

Beautiful building.

Decorated altar.

Gorgeous organ.

First-class sound equipment for the praise band.

Prepared minister.

Eager ushers.

Hymns meticulously selected.

Fresh doughnuts.

Delicious coffee.

Ample parking.

Batteries in the wireless mics.

Sunday school lessons.

Nursery workers.

Handicap accessible.

Bathrooms stocked with paper products.

Children’s church.

Carpets swept.

Library open.

Prayers uttered.

Choir rehearsed.

ALL IS PREPARED.

Whosoever will may come.

But they don’t.

Never has there been so much tender-loving care put into the prospect of receiving an audience which refuses to arrive.

It was a bitter-cold Sunday morning in Columbia, South Carolina when I found my way to Windsor.

Absolutely delightful, engaging, intelligent, fresh human beings.

Just not very many of them.

And I guess it would be fine if there wasn’t a general understanding among those attending that something is missing–or rather, a bunch of “someones” absent.

Some of those who fail to attend are former advocates who have left, either through disagreement or just “growing weary in well-doing.”

But many are human beings who have been taunted into believing that there are no real answers within the stained glass windows.

The church has become the standing joke for those who want to poke fun at a group of people they truly do not understand. So there’s a tendency for those who are still warming the pew to turn cold and lose faith.

The good news is that we have the facility to receive our fellow-travelers.

The better news is that while we’re waiting for them to make up their minds, we should work on our own lives, our own joy, our own understanding and our own tolerance.

Jesus was interested in a following that had lips with heart. In other words, what is spoken comes from a place of passion. The beauty of passion is that even if you’re wrong, because you have not hidden your feelings, they can be corrected. And if you’re right, the energy can bring life to those around you.

When you remove heart from lips, you get words that sound dry, dusty and old. But when you add the personal joy and testimony of reality, then the lips can speak the desires of the heart and bring revival.

So to all the good friends I met at Windsor, let me remind you:

While we are waiting for the world to get tired of crazy, let us look to ourselves and overcome our lazy.

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Sunday Mourning … October 27, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sunday mourning

Jesus is dead

Though he arose

As he said

Here is his body

In the bread

Drink his blood

That was shed

Gather, listen to the tune

Bow your head

And softly croon

“Rock of ages

Cleft for me”

Bass or treble

I assume it to be

Repeat after me

The magical words

Stained glass windows

With lilies and birds

Somber you came

And quiet you go

Reach the exit

End the show

A sermon of thoughts

Three in all

Very meaningful

But can you recall

The message shared

On this day

The names of those

For which we pray

A doughnut, some coffee

A word or two

A brief sense of one

And then we are through

Yes, God is our Father

On this we agree

But He works late at night

So quiet we should be

No running in the house

No whispering to your spouse

It is the way of the Lord

Though we feel quite bored

It is not for us to understand

It is not time to strike up the band

We worship a King

Our offering we bring

For we are lost

And He paid the cost

And never will we celebrate

Instead we carefully commemorate

Please, each of us redeem

From our unholy scheme

To achieve a pious conclusion

Our temporary absolution

To return again next week

Weaker and feeling meek

So we inherit the earth

In heaven at rebirth

Sunday mourning

Tears in our eyes

Is it true emotion?

Or fear of our lies?

 

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