The Mission of the Church:

Sunday October 4, 2020 | Teaching Notes | TMH Waterloo

Week 1: The MAKING of the Church
Week 2: The MEETINGS of the Church
Week 3: The MINISTRY of the Church
Week 4:  The MISSION of the Church
Week 5: The MESSAGE of the Church
Week 6: The MULTIPLICATION of the Church


Song for kids: Knock, Knock, Knock

Knock, knock, knock!
I hear Jesus knocking.
Tug, tug, tug,
Tugging at my heart strings.
Thump, thump, thump,
My heart started thumping, when I heard him knocking.

Jesus stood outside my door,
Asking to come in.
But he would not step inside,
Until I asked him.
(Thump, thump, thump)

POSTURE PRAYER: FOR KIDS (… and adults too)
Surrender, Generosity, Mission | Link for pdf

  1. HOLD FISTS TIGHTLY
    “God, sometimes I’m worried, nervous, or angry.”
    OPEN HANDS AND RELAX: SURRENDER
    “God, I trust you with everything.”
  2. CROSS OUR ARMS
    “God, sometimes I don’t want to share and say: ‘No, that’s mine!’”
    PUT OUR HANDS OUT: GENEROSITY
    “God, I want to share everything I have.”
  3. HANDS AT SIDES
    “God, Sometimes I don’t care about others or their feelings.”
    EXTEND ARMS OUT: BEING ON MISSION
    “God, I want to think about others!”

Week 4: The MISSION of the Church

What challenges did the early church face as they grew, matured, and expanded?

Welcome to week four of our six-week series about the making, meetings, and methods of the early church. We are drawing inspiration from the first-century church for the decisions and direction of our church today.

This week we look at the MISSION of the early church, with a focus on the challenges they faced as they grew, matured, and expanded. As the church is sent at the beginning of the book of Acts we read…

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Later in Acts, the Church has grown but so has opposition.  Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” is stoned. A Pharisee, Saul, also known as Paul, stands in approval of this killing…

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. … Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. (Acts 8:1, 4)

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
– Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20)


APPETIZER: The Great Commission in two-parts

The Great Commission as missio Dei (mission of God)
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (v. 18)

  • His rule and power are now over the whole cosmos.
  • The whole world has now become the arena of God’s mission, beyond Israel and the church.

The Great Commission as Incarnation
“Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (v. 20)

  • Jesus goes with his disciples into the world.
  • We live, teach, disciple, and baptize under his authority.
  • God’s work isn’t “generic” but concrete as the Spirit extends Christ’s presence visibly through the church into the world.

Our Purpose at The Meeting House
We exist to grow loving communities of Jesus-followers who live and share his irreligious message.
Or, in one word: discipleship.

Our Vision at The Meeting House
To introduce spiritually curious people to the Jesus-centred life, through a movement of Jesus-centred churches.
Or, in one word: evangelism.
(In a fully enfleshed and grace-filled, not “yell-y street-preacher sort of way)


DINE IN: The Church Scattered and The Church in Lukewarm Water

Scattered Church
Acts 1:1–8 & 7:54–8:4

  • It’s important to follow Jesus’ instructions! Remember that disciples are baptised with the Holy Spirit and in power.
  • Don’t get confused with that the power actually is.
  • Our key characteristic here is witnesses (see more, Rev. 3 below)
  • The Church under persecution becomes scattered: “those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (8:4)

Luke-warmness in Laodicea  
Revelation 3:14-22

  • Jesus is the faithful and true witness (Heb 1:1-3 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being”).
  • Jesus knows us and our deeds, whether hot or cold, whether rich and proud.
  • Submission to Jesus is necessary; mutual submission to one another too.
  • Jesus rebukes and disciplines those he loves.
  • Jesus stands and knocks at your door, he’ll come in if we open the door.

TAKE OUT:  Scattered and Still on Mission – Even in a Pandemic

If our mission is to participate with Jesus in his work — making disciples, being witnesses — what does that look like right now?

Remember who we are:
Witnesses.
Baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Given Power (but not earthly, Acts 1:6).
Not Alone, but Together (with Jesus and one another) in the Spirit.
In your hospital room alone,
In the pain of your difficult marriage,
In the loneliness of living on your own,
In the busy and messy home with kids, and overwhelmed,
In the confusion, depression, and struggles with mental health
In the concerns of joblessness or financial struggle
In the concerns of running a business and responsibility over other’s employment.
In the persecution or martyrdom (of Stephen, Acts 8:55-56)

A Witness Tells a Story

A real and true story. Tell each other stories about God’s faithfulness.
E.g., When has God been present? When have you felt close and known that Jesus is with you? When have you felt the Spirit and power? When has the church made Jesus’ presence present?  

Embracing the Now

“Make the most of every opportunity.” Col. 4:5

Except “the now” might be paralysis. What kind of paralysis are you feeling? Fear or comfort? Longing for the past? Share this with others; open up; make space for honest and real conversation. Take action, if you’re able. Be ready to give this be ready to hear encouragement or challenge.

Lukewarmness – What does this look like?

Story | Golf in itself is not fulfilling. Life over zoom is not good. Wired for getting in there and getting honest. Once we helped someone move, we got closer, people shared about their mental health, a shift in the group.

Knowing our brokenness and leaning on Christ and the Church is core.
From there, Grow and Give and Go all meet at “Together”:

“At that point in life where your talent meets the needs of the world, that is where God wants you to be.”

Marcus Bach, often attributed to others.

Digital Diaspora/Divide.
We can come “together” but it’s hard. It’s a new culture and new place, it’s sometimes uncomfortable, with new custom and a new language (Jeremiah 29:4-10 – “Build houses and settle down”). And for those who literally can’t, let’s do church like it’s 1950.

Not everything is online!
Get in a huddle. Go for walks with others. Home Churches might meet in-person. Apple picking or farm visits with others? Outdoor skating? Let’s make it a party (of an appropriate size) and have fun.

Don’t do the “Nortel Nod”
Don’t listen to what you hear, nod in agreement, and then go off and what you were doing before or your own thing.

What steps are you taking to hear from God?
Try Posture Prayer: pick a version!
For Kids, 1-Page, 3-Page.
Tape or pin to the wall or fridge or wherever you’ll see it; preferably 2x a day!

Have you Tried the Lord’s Supper Lately? Try it today at lunch.
I put together a simple communion prayer here

Reminder from Week 2: A FALL 2020 NEXT STEPS STARTER PACK

  1. Got questions? Ask your parish pastor.
  2. Inquire about baptism.
  3. Establish a (new) Sunday routine.
  4. Sign up for a Home Church when possible.
  5. Attend Home Church online and in person to grow and to give.
  6. Engage with your parish’s Compassion partners: MCRS and A4C!
  7. Contribute financially, if and when you can.
  8. Have fun!

Use these questions like a menu, not a checklist. This is not mandated material you have to cover, but options to help guide your discussion.

HANGOUT [Warming Up to the Topic – in one Large Group]

  1. What ideas stood out to you from this week’s teaching? Review the notes and discuss.
  2. How do you feel about our response at The Meeting House to this new season of pandemic distancing?

HEAR [Listening to God through Scripture – in Discussion Groups]

Read Acts 1:1–8 & 7:54–8:4.

  1. What verse or idea stands out to you? Why?
  2. What is the mission of the church? What does it mean to be a witness?
  3. Read Acts 1:8 and 8:1. What are the differences? What is relevant for us, the church today? How do we need to think about being the church in this moment?
  4. We’re obviously not actively persecuted by Covid-19, but we are “scattered” – we can’t be gathered in large collective settings. What can we do right now and how can we care for one another? What can we (huddles, Home Church, Hub, kidmax, youth, compassion) do to prepare for the day when we don’t have restrictions?

Read Revelation 3:14-22.

  1. What verse or idea stands out to you? Why?
  2. What are the criticisms of the Church in Laodicea? In what ways are they appropriate to the Church in Waterloo? In what ways are they appropriate to you/us?
  3. What is a rebuke or discipline Jesus is telling you in love?
  4. When does Jesus knock at the door? Give an example.

HUDDLE [Making it Personal and Praying Together – in Huddles]

  • Tell one another stories of God’s faithfulness.
  • What has God been saying to you this week? What encouragement or conviction have you sensed from this discussion? Talk about it and pray for one another.

Jesus by John | John 8:21-36 | Aug 30, 2020

LOOKING FOR JESUS | QUESTIONING JESUS |BELIEVING IN JESUS.

APPETIZER: So far in John 7 and 8…

The Feast: Tabernacles/Booths/Sukkoth

Jesus’ teaching impresses crowds.
The chief priests and Pharisees are concerned about the crowds were beginning to believe that he was the Messiah.

The guards sent to arrest Jesus even stop to listen (… and didn’t arrest him).

Jesus embodies The Feast:

  • Manna (“I am the bread of life”) John 6:35
  • Water from the rock (“Come to me and drink/living water”) John 7:37
  • Pillar of light (“I am the light of the world”) John 8:12

“Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of real life.” (John 8:12)

DINE-IN: Looking for Jesus & Questioning Jesus

Looking for Jesus

v.21 | Life-threatening confrontation (out of abundant love)
There’s nothing we can do to find Jesus.
They were desperate then and we are too. Disciples or not.

v. 22 | It’s already been asked once…
The first time (7:35): is he going over the mountain?
The second time (8:22): is he going to kill himself?

Bewilderment: of the Jewish religious at Jesus.

v.23 | Above and below; of this this world and not.
There’s a lot of emptiness in this world.
There’s so much to buy and sell but not that much real life.
Caffeine Free Diet Coke

v.24 | “I AM HE”
The first sin (8:21); and all other sins (8:24, 34, etc.)
If not trusting Jesus, what? Self? What follows from that?
Multiplied mistrust, persistence in the primal sin.
Is Jesus not life itself? Not trusting in Jesus is refusing the Kingdom of God.

Jesus loves us so much. He wants us to know this deeply and truly—here, his warnings are centred on believing that he is who he says he is—he is I AM (Ex. 3:13).

This warning is life-threatening; Jesus doesn’t want us to die in unbelief or in our sins. How easy is it to be trapped and enslaved in sin (8:34)? With Jesus in front of them, in the face of Freedom and Truth, it was possible.

Whenever we don’t rely on grace, we try to go where we “cannot come,” we show our true colours as “from below.” This is why not believing is the primal sin.

Questioning Jesus

v. 25 | The Question at the Core
Who are you? Who is Jesus?
All the allusions, references, and direct quotes from the Scriptures… is that not enough?
For Example: Suffering Servant: “he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted” (Isa. 52:13); The Prophet to Come: “I will raise up for them a prophet… I will put my words in his mouth” (Deut. 18:15-18//Acts 3:22–23); Jesus’ correction of their misinterpretations, “A prophet come from Galilee” (Isa 9:2) or even that they want to kill him, “you shall not commit murder” (Deut. 5:17)
Jesus isn’t being cheeky—he wants them to know.

Bewilderment: of Jesus at their question.

v.26 | Avoiding judgement, centring on Jesus relation to the Father

v.27 | Thick skulls (or more generously, insistent on their interpretation)

v. 28 | The Exalted Son of Man is “I AM HE”
“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”
Jesus gives a key to the Torah following Jews (Deut. 18:21–22).

The Cross is the place where God meets humanity in an entirely inexplicable and, yet, entirely explicable way. This horrific scene is also the moment of clarity—God’s single greatest meeting place with the human race. The cross shows us what God is like, how much he loves the world, and how we can come to know him.

“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:18-30)

v.30 | Ears that hear
The doubling work of the Holy Spirit. The Presence of God at work.

Belief: of many who heard Jesus speak.

TAKE-OUT: Believing in Jesus

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” (John 8:31)

“Hold” = menō. Remain or abide; in reference to a place, time, or state/condition.

It is the feast of Tabernacles. Seems like a good place for an abode.

Jesus, in essence, says: you will know me by my teaching. He is exactly what he has been telling us (8:25). Jesus will find us, and so we will come to know God, by our trusting and living in his teaching.

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:26)

Even in all of the life-threatening warnings above (“you will die in your sin”), there is great hope given here by Jesus. Everyone who is a slave to sin can be set free and be made a child in God’s family by believing in Jesus.

  1. Abiding in the Scriptures — reading the Bible
    1. Got a rhythm? Great
    2. Need a rhythm? Good. Consider:
      • Independent, w/ family or friends, Saturday night
      • Make it regular, digestible/feasible
      • Ensure it’s a “get to” not a “have to”
    3. Try this plan – seems flexible enough and Danielle and I are going to try it.

  2. Being in the body — our local church
    1. Pandemic life is weird. Focus on living and being present with one another, sharing in brokenness, really communicating and trusting, then praying and knowing how to support and be supported. How to give grace and receive it too.
    2. What does a “huddle” look like right now?
      • Story from Michael
    3. What do Home Churches look like moving forward?
  3. Taking Action:
    1. Confession.
      In what ways do you reveal that you are “from below”? Specifically, what sins are you struggling with? Lying, lust, greed, pride, and whom do you need to confess to: God? Someone specific?
    2. Overcoming fear.
      What prevents you from living out Jesus’ teaching? Do you ask: “What if I get it wrong? What if people don’t like what I say or do? Don’t be afraid of doing something wrong if your heart is in the right place and it looks and sounds like Jesus.
      Realize that suffering, like Jesus on the Cross, is real life, it’s “from above,” and is the way of Love, Truth, Freedom, Reconciliation, and Real Life. Don’t let yourself be paralyzed with fear because the ways of this world seem easy, they aren’t actually free, and they aren’t true. It’s a kind of slavery. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that doing nothing is good, either. Luke-warmness isn’t any way to go (Rev. 3:16).
    3. Training Active Bystanders.
      Ask Rod about it. Registration closes today (Sun. Aug. 30)

Which of these things are you going to talk about at your dinner table today? This week?

People, despite their wealth…

People, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like the beasts that perish.

 וְאָדָם בִּיקָר בַּל־יָלִין נִמְשַׁל כַּבְּהֵמֹות נִדְמֽוּ׃

Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendour of their houses increases;

אַל־תִּירָא כִּֽי־יַעֲשִׁר אִישׁ כִּֽי־יִרְבֶּה כְּבֹוד בֵּיתֹֽו׃

for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendour will not descend with them.

כִּי לֹא בְמֹותֹו יִקַּח הַכֹּל לֹא־יֵרֵד אַחֲרָיו כְּבֹודֹֽו׃

Psalm 49:12, 16–17

The Bible Project

If you sometimes feel like the bible is way too big, too complicated, to ancient, and/or not understandable–check out The Bible Project and their videos!

I highly recommend The Bible Project and their YouTube channel. I especially like the Read Scripture series (both Old Testament and New Testament), which gives and overview of each book of the Bible in a 7-10 minute video. There’s also videos for biblical themes, word studies, and other specific series.Everything is graphically crafted in ways that a visually stimulating, memorable, and helpful for learning!

Their videos help inspire me (and others!) to read the bible. How great is that?!

Screen Shot 2019-08-07 at 10.41.43 AM

 

When dealing with creationists…

I wouldn’t begin with scientific arguments. I’d start with the biblical text and with Christian interpreters of the past.

Listen to the words of Origen (185–254):

Now what man of intelligence will believe that the first and the second and the third day, and the evening and the morning existed without the sun and moon and stars? And that the first day, if we may so call it, was even without a heaven? And who is so silly as to believe that god, after the manner of a farmer, “planted a paradise eastward in Eden,” and set in it a visible and palpable “tree of life,” of such a sort that anyone who tasted its fruit with his bodily teeth would gain life; and again that one could partake of “good and evil” by masticating the fruit from the tree of that name? And when God is said to “walk in the paradise in the cool of day” and Adam to hid himself behind a tree, I do not think anyone will doubt that these are figurative expressions which indicate certain mysteries through a semblance of history and not though actual event.

– Origen, On First Principles, ed. by G. W. Butterworth (New York, Harper and Row, 1966), p. 288

On Community and Camp Crossroads

I read the introduction for the Month of October in Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals this morning, and I had some reflections I thought I’d share.
(Scroll down if you wish to skip the excerpt)

Formation in the Way of Christ

For many of us, the judgmental, arrogant, legalistic Christianity we knew growing up has created a suspicion of discipline and order that can lead to a pretty sloppy spirituality.  Reacting against the institution’s sickness, we easily find ourselves with little to help us heal from our own wounds, create new disciplines, and carve out a space where goodness triumphs.  People who are afraid of spiritual discipline will not produce very good disciples.

Community is pretty hip these days.  The longing for community is in all of us.  We long to love and be loved.  But if community doesn’t exist for something beyond us, it will atrophy, suffocate, die.  Discipline and disciple share the same roots, and without discipline, we become little more than hippie communes or frat houses.  We easily fall short of God’s dream to form a new humanity with distinct practices that offer hope and good news to the world.  Like any culture, we who follow the way of Jesus have distinct ways of eating and partying, different from the culture of consumption, homogeneity, and hedonism.  Our homes, our living rooms, even our parties can become places of solace and hospitality for those with addictions and struggles.  But it doesn’t happen without intentionality.  Dorothy Day said, “We have to create an environment where it is easier to be good.”

Suggested Reading for the Month:

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola

The Rule of St. Benedict

St. Francis of Assisi is a model for us not only of what it looks like to follow hard after Jesus but also how we can celebrate the disciplines that have been passed down to us and become the church that we long for, even among people who’ve given up on “church.”  Our communities should be places where people can detox, where that be from alcohol, tobacco, gluttony, shopping, or gossip.  We long for a space that tips us toward goodness rather than away from it, where we can pick up new habits – holy habits – as we are formed into a new creation, transformed by God.

It was the line, “We have to create an environment where it is easier to be good,” that reminded me of what I’ve heard from friends and their experiences at Christian camps.  Camp Crossroads is a place I’ve spent many summers attending as a camper and subsequent summers volunteering and working as staff.  In both situations, friends were aware that this was a good place, and that it was easy to be a good person (or Christian) at camp.

Camp Crossroads is to be commended for this.  The Christian community that it is, built by many people who have worked long and laborious hours over many years, alongside much prayer, has continued to flourish since its inception in the early 1980s.

Campers and staff have daily disciplines: meals together (with very delicious food), morning exercises, breakfast devotions (“Wheaties from the Word” though I think it’s called something else now), staff prayer, PQT (personal quiet time), morning chapel, “lets talk time” (group discussion on chapel), evening chapel, and every activity under the sun (and moon) filled with fun, laughter, and skills building together.

Teenage campers, particularly those from non-churched homes, can more clearly see a dichotomy between the “world of fun” at camp and outside camp.  Younger staff, myself included, have expressed that they feel this difference too.

Friends often lament that they will leave, afraid that their lives will fall back to patterns that they would rather not follow.  They recognize that there is a better way to live, that Jesus really is an important guy (i.e. God), that He really did show us a better way to live, and that another world is possible (i.e. the Kingdom of God).

The difficulty here is that camp is a short-term, intense, 1 week experience at camp.  Patterns, relationships, and disciplines are quickly formed by the community.  Leaving camp usually entails a descent from a “spiritual high”.

There are many reasons for this; two obvious ones: they cease following patterns (disciplines) that were making them into better disciples,s and they leave the community that helped them become better disciples.

Enter the local church.  Churches often have Sunday Services, Small Groups/Bible study meetings once weekly, Youth group meetings once a week.  Some churches are successful with creating a space for youths to enter into disciplines and patterns that help form them as people in the Christian community.

But for the Church overall (this would include Christian camps): people, Christian or not, recognize that their lives could be better and, indeed, that the world could be better.  Toward the end of the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, the dichotomy I mentioned earlier is made quite plain – though it sounds somewhat awkward for our ‘modern’ ears.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

 

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

(Ephesians 4:17-32 ESV)

When we participate in the body of Christ, joining communities that follow in the way of Jesus, offering hospitality, healing, and hope to the world, while participating in the disciplines, practices, and hard work that holy habits take, we open ourselves to be formed into new creations.  We also open our lives to taste the Kingdom of God.

I want to encourage those who have experienced the goodness of the life that Christ offers and have left Christian communities to find them again, to again form holy habits and disciplines.  I want to encourage churches and places like Camp Crossroads to continue to do the work they do.  That they may work harder and harder to do their best to practice the disciplines that make their communities easy places to be good, offering hope and good news to the world, where they may be continually transformed by God, helping others be transformed by God.

Really enjoying life: a very brief story

Indian priest Anthony de Mello told this story:

“A rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find a Southern fisherman lying leisurely beside his boat. ‘Why aren’t you fishing?’ asked the industrialist.

“‘Because I have caught enough fish for the day.’ said the fisherman.

“‘Why don’t you catch some more?’

“What would I do with them?’

“‘You could earn more money,’ was the reply. ‘With that, you could fix a motor to your boat, go into deeper waters and catch more fish. Then you would make enough money to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats… maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me.’

“‘What would I do then?’

“‘Then you could really enjoy life.’

“‘What do you think I am doing right now?’ said the fisherman.”