This isn’t a popular concept in our culture today, but Scripture teaches us that all of humanity is born into spiritual debt. All of us have sinned against a Holy and Righteous God. It is eternal sin against an eternal God and carries an eternal debt. Colossians 2 describes us as being spiritually dead and having a certificate of debt against us. This is a certificate for a contest that you don’t want to win and yet all of us have excelled in running up an account of spiritual debt.
In our culture today we don’t understand spiritual debt but we understand financial debt. We live in a culture that thrives on debt. 40% of all Americans spend more than they make. Most people who have the new car, new house, new gadgets, also have new letters that come in the mail each week from their debt collectors.
Self-sufficiency is something that is really sneaky that can creep into our spiritual lives before we even see it coming. It is really sneaky, really subtle, and it could stop us before we start. Typically it will reveal itself in 1 of 2 ways:
Arrogance: We look within ourselves and conclude we can do it. We can get it done. Our childhood idol was G.I. Joe and we can make it happen!
Discouragement: We look within and conclude it is impossible. We can’t do this. Our childhood idol was Eeyor and we are going to mess it up.
Both of those responses are an attack against the gospel because it is looking within and based on our resources determining if we can do something or not. That isn’t the gospel. It isn’t our self-sufficiency that gets us to Jesus and it isn’t our self-sufficiency that keeps us with Jesus. Here are some other characteristics of self-sufficiency:
When it comes to starting a church today in the United States 95% of them do so with a traditional promotional marketing strategy. Which means they come into an area, study the demographics, and market their church accordingly, just like any business would market its self.
When I speak to other new churches they tell me they spend $30-50K on marketing. They send mailers, door hangers, billboards, radio spots, magazine ads, and they come into a community and blitz the community with marketing. There is nothing wrong with marketing, but if our focus is a traditional marketing strategy it will create two road blocks:
• Not Effective: In North Central Austin we called all the churches in a 2-mile radius and of the 200,000 people living in the area less than 10,000 of them are connected to a local church. Many of them have had negative experiences, many of them are jaded, have been hurt, and a door hanger isn’t able to overcome those past experiences. There will be a few, but in our context, it typically won’t work. We have done some traditional marketing, but less than $2K.
• Not Reproducible: The second is that strategy isn’t reproducible for the average Christ follower. The average person isn’t going to call up KISS FM and purchase a radio spot for our church. As a result, the traditional marketing strategy removes the Christ follower from the equation and it isn’t reproducible.
So “What is our marketing strategy?”
Here is a quick video to capture the last year with the kids. Enjoy!
Here is a quick snapshot of the last 3 months. It has been fun!
Holidays are a great time to connect with family and create some memories. Sure there is some stress, but it is a key time in the family to create traditions and connections with friends and family.
This is a picture from a family outing we had recently. Be sure to take some time around the holidays to create some memories!
Last week I was at Schlotzky’s and I heard this lady next to me talking about her Thanksgiving and she said, ”We spent it with our friends and it was so much fun, because it was with all the people we wanted to be with.”
Sometimes family can make the holidays a little noisy. In every family it is inevitable that there are different expectations around the holidays. Yet, even with all the chaos from traveling, and attending parties, I wish there were a dozen days throughout the year that we would celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ because it is a time when we are reminded of a tremendous amount of hope that is provided to all of humanity.
In Micah 5 we see a clearer picture of this hope:
On November 21st, 12-3pm we are going to collect food from the Allandale Neighborhood to donate to the Capital Food Bank here in Austin. Click on the link for more details…
The fourth one is to know this communion is collective.
We don’t celebrate reunions, gatherings, weddings, festivals in isolation, but in community with a meal. When we invite someone to eat with us it is an invitation to relax a little bit and get to know one another. In many cultures, to offer to eat with someone is to offer them friendship, however, in our culture the individual desires have been elevated over the family, group, or community and we have become isolated in spiritual relationships.
Scriptures teach us we simply need to listen and do. Listen and do what? Listen and do what the scriptures are teaching. Below are some simple questions to ask ourselves if we hope to avoid hypocrisy.
Is my heart receptive to what the scriptures are teaching me personally? Sometimes are hearts can become spiritually callous toward scripture and as a result there is a lack of receptivity. If this is neglected over time we will drift toward hypocrisy.
The second one is to know that communion is material.
How fitting that before Jesus offered His life on the cross for our shame and guilt that He sat down and gathered with the disciples to celebrate a meal with them called the Passover which started in Exodus when they took the blood of the lamb and placed it on the door posts, the right, left and top and all those who were covered by the blood of the lamb escaped death.
It was at the Passover meal, a meal the disciples had celebrated every year that Jesus sat down and describes Himself as the final lamb, the ultimate sacrifice, and soon His body and blood would be broken and poured out on their behalf so that today who ever is covered by the blood of the lamb escapes eternal death and it will Passover them.
When we come to celebrate we can be confident that because of Jesus’ physical sacrifice on the cross we are in perfect harmony with God because God’s wrath isn’t taken out on a lamb that needs to be sacrificed every year, but on Jesus and it was completely satisfied. Communion is material.
We recently celebrated communion for the first time as a new church and it was really powerful. For most of us we are either new to church or haven’t been in a long time so we took a little bit of time to discuss the purpose of communion. I remember the first time I took communion and I wasn’t sure what to do with that little cracker so hopefully these points will be helpful to you as well.
The first one is to know that communion is experiential.
Communion is just a snap shot of the feast and celebration that we will experience when Jesus returns and it is a time of celebration and joy. It isn’t divided by membership, age, sex, or education, but it is a celebration that is available to all who have placed their faith in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
In John 2 Jesus is attending a wedding celebration and in the midst of the party they run out of wine and in that culture it would have been very embarrassing and Jesus turns to the servant and ends up turning 150 gallons of water into the best wine so that the party can continue because in Jesus there is a joy that is to be experienced that we can celebrate. There is a difference between believing there is joy and experiencing joy. As we come to celebrate communion it is to not only know of the joy that is in Jesus and what He accomplished at the cross but also to experience the joy.
If we come to celebrate communion and are hindered by all of our shame, our guilt, our list of wrong doings, our faults then let us be reminded that His body and blood were poured out on our behalf so that He took that shame, guilt, and list of wrong doings upon Himself so that we may enter into this celebration and this joy is not only to known but to be experienced.
Some people around the country have called us to ask us what we are doing and how we got started. Although the last thing we want to do is reduce this to a cookie cutter model there are some things that are reproducible. The first starting with a burden for something different within the local church. It might start with frustration, angst, or even indifference, but at the core there has to be a burden for change. Often times this can be perceived as rebelliousness by others, however, sometimes the Spirit of God is stirring in us and our community in such a way because He is wanting to see something different. Therefore, it must start with a burden and that burden must result in activity and if not, it is just unhealthy grumbling that creates division.
After looking back over the last year we saw a few patterns that were helpful for us to move our burden into activity. We hope it is helpful.
Observing Context: Spend time in a community, neighborhood, city getting to know their rhythms. Ideally, you are already from this context and it is just taking the time to articulate what you already knew was there, however, if not take the time to listen and learn. Talk to people. Talk to strangers. Ask them questions about their community. Most people love where they live and they will enjoy talking about their community.
Gathering Others: If your burden is something that doesn’t peak curiosity in others then it might not be a burden but more so just something fun to blog about! This can’t be done alone. There must be others. It will make it messy, complicated, slow it down, but without others you are just some weird person.
In Philemon Paul writes a letter to reconcile a relational conflict between Onesimus and Philemon and in this letter we see a communication pattern that we can apply between church and community.
8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.