October 8, 2012 by cbbeard
One of the many great things about serving as Lead Minister at Christ Covenant Church is that I am offered both the opportunity and expectation that I will attend various conferences throughout the year. These conferences help stretch and grow me, help me become a better leader, introduce me to new ideas, and allow me to connect with other fellow workers for Christ. The most recent conference I attended was Sentralized in Kansas City, put on by the Forge Network. I want to share some of the “thought highlights” from my notes from this excellent conference*:
The church is realizing that what got us here will not be what moves us forward. – Alan Hirsch
For many years, it seems that church growth was focused on “doing church better.” To reach people we needed a better children’s ministry or worship service; something that would attract people to our church. God used that era of church history to bring countless people to Jesus. But times have changed. People are generally no longer interested in “a better church,” the exception being people who already know Jesus.
A shift must take place. We must seriously consider the Scriptures; passages like Matthew 28, Ephesians 4, and the book of Acts, to rediscover God’s intentions for his church. We need a rediscovery of mission and a reconsideration of the framework of how we “do church” so that we can effectively and efficiently take Christ to the masses. This is not easy because there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer the church. Stay tuned as we work to move forward!
We have to work together to redefine church for new generations. – Dan Kimball
People with very good intentions have often miscommunicated what Church is all about. For example, even though I am trying to teach my children to “be the church” rather than to “go to church” my default language still teaches the wrong thing. We still talk about what time church starts. I still ask if any of their friends are coming to church with them.
Additionally, we must be honest and admit that we haven’t given the world a very good picture of Jesus as a general rule. This might be because of bad examples (so-called “churches” and “Christians” who don’t really reflect Jesus) or because we have only communicated part of the Jesus story (as in focusing more on eternal reward and less on how Jesus transforms life on earth). As Dan said, when we redefine church, “people will still reject Jesus, but at least they will know the whole story.”
Christians were the first inclusive community; they were missional people accountable to the Kingdom. – Hugh Halter
Halter focused a lot on the idea that the church was intended to be both scattered and gathered. The contemporary Western church does a good job at the gathered part; we are good at getting together on Sunday mornings and other designated times for worship, teaching, and fellowship. But what is missing in many churches today is the scattered aspect which is essentially the church community functioning in the “real world.” If we study the characteristics of the first-century church, we find that they were a true community, but not only at a designated meeting place. Acts 2:42-47 in particular shows that the church did life together and were not isolated from the surrounding community, but were very much part of it. This gave the church the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus to those who did not yet believe.
In the church today, we need to move beyond having “first decision” environments in the church to intentionally building “second decision” environments. The “first decision” environment is where all it takes is essentially a decision to follow Christ to be active; i.e. the church gathering. The “second decision” environment requires followers of Jesus to make another decision to step out in faith and serve as missionaries as they do life. And the good news is that they don’t have to serve alone, the scattered church works together to spread the good news of the Kingdom.
God’s story is about who rules in this world. – Scot McKnight
Who rules the world is at the core of man’s fall and the primary truth of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Since our church has been working our way through “The Story” over the past 26 weeks, this truth really resonated with me. The sin of Adam and Eve (an all of us for that matter) was an usurping of God’s authority. Sin is an attempt to say “I rule in this world!” Of course, Jesus died for our sins, he paid the debt we owed. But God’s story and Kingdom is about way more than just forgiveness of sins; it is about restoring God’s rightful place in our lives as ruler of the world.
Scot also said “we have an evangelistic method that produces decisions, but not disciples.” This is due in part that we have miscommunicated God’s story to some extent. We must return to the true Gospel in our lives and in our proclamation; a Gospel that absolutely depends on what Christ did on the cross, but involves the full extent of God’s Kingdom and his rule in our life.
Discipleship by Jesus included Information, Imitation, and Innovation. – Jo Saxton
Jesus was a great teacher; he taught his followers about the Kingdom of God with authority and in ways that would leave the people awestruck. But it is interesting to note that when Jesus made disciples, he didn’t completely depend on teaching information.
A good deal of Jesus’ training of his followers was that of imitation as well. Jesus was the perfect example of a life that had an UP connection with the Father; his obedience, worship, and prayer were to be emulated by his followers. He was also the perfect example of a life that had an IN connection with other followers of God; he spent a lot of time working with the 12 disciples and the inner circle of 3 (Peter, James, and John). And of course, Jesus was the perfect example of a life with an OUT connection as well; Jesus was always in and amongst the crowds; loving them, serving them, healing them, and sharing the good news of the Kingdom with those who did not know.
But Jesus also taught the disciples that they were to innovate through the power of the Holy Spirit. Check out this scary promise from Jesus in John 14:12 – I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. Yikes! That may seem like a lot of pressure, but it shouldn’t be; we simply must unleash the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Some other one-liners that I loved*:
- Don’t turn Jesus into Spiderman, he is not a fairy tale! – Michael Frost
- Saying we are the generous, redeemed, loving, serving, etc. ones is a dangerous promise. – Michael Frost
- Most movements emerge in protest of the status quo…but the church is NOT the enemy. – Alan Hirsch
- Instead of becoming a movement of God for people, we become a monument of people for God. – Neil Cole
- Dig wells rather than build fences; if sheep have a well they will stay near it. – Deb Hirsch
- Kingdom work is work that puts God’s redemptive power on display. – Scot McKnight
- Belong to your neighborhood rather than just engaging your neighborhood. – Geoff and Sherry Maddock
- To illustrate the misunderstandings of Jesus: “Was Jesus a zombie?” (question from an unbeliever trying to comprehend the resurrection of Jesus) – Dan Kimball
- If the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus don’t move people, then neither will your sermon. – Neil Cole
- The church is not the hope of the world, Jesus is. But Jesus’ hope is that the church will come alive. Jesus died for the church. – Hugh Halter
- Jesus is so Jewish, he doesn’t make sense outside the framework of the Old Testament. – Scot McKnight
- It’s impossible to teach a man what he thinks he already knows. – Alan Hirsch
- When it comes to the church…you can either blow bubbles or suck water; you can’t do it at the same time. You can either send or attract. – Neil Cole
- Are we inspired to action or inspired for entertainment? – Jo Saxton
Thanks to those who made this conference possible, and thanks to those who made it possible for me to go. I pray I don’t waste the insights God provided through these leaders, and that I am constantly transformed by God’s truth so that I can serve him and his church in a manner worthy of Christ.
* The quotes attributed here are from my notes and may not be word-for-word.