Archive for the ‘Attractional – Incarnational’ Category

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THE NATIVITY SCENE: the view from outside a strip club

December 1, 2007

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by Jim Black

Friday, Nov 30, 2007

It was Christmas Eve. I was delivering a basket of food and toys to a family that our church was sponsoring. And I drove by it again. There was the Nativity scene – Mary, Joseph, the angels and shepherds, and right in the middle, the baby Jesus – sitting serenely on the roof of the strip club.

The first time I saw this was two years before, and I laughed at the sight; it just didn’t seem to fit. The second year I wondered what the owners were thinking that they would do this. And on this Christmas Eve I just had to find out.

I noticed that the door to the club was open. It was around 3 in the afternoon, and I parked my car and walked to the door, glancing nervously over my shoulder. What if someone saw me, a pastor, walking into this den of sin in broad daylight? Would anyone understand? Would my career be over? I peeked inside, wondering what I would find.

To my relief, the club was not open and there was a Christmas party being held for the staff…with everyone fully clothed! I asked for the owner, and a woman around 60 years old approached me. I introduced myself, and I said how much I admired the Nativity scene on her roof. She began to tell me about her belief in God, and how much she needed the Lord’s help in her life. I hadn’t planned what I was going to say, and I didn’t feel the Lord prompting me to preach to her in any way about the obvious disparity of the scene. I told her I was a pastor and I encouraged her to keep on talking with and listening to Jesus. She told me that she had tried to go to church before, but she just didn’t feel like she belonged there, and she knew what they would think of her if they ever found out what she did for a living. I told her she was welcome at our church anytime. After wishing each other a Merry Christmas I turned to leave. She thanked me for stopping in, and she told me that she had never really talked with a pastor before.

As I drove away, the strip club Nativity scene in my rear view mirror, I suddenly realized just how much it fit – Jesus didn’t come to the world to stay away from sinners (myself included), but He was born right into the middle of the filth, pain and longing of humanity. He loved sinners, they loved him; he lived with them, touched them – they were the main reason he came. It was in the religious world that he didn’t fit.

I wish I could say that the owner of the club came to church and was transformed that Christmas (then I could have written a book that would sell!) but I never saw her again, and the club was soon closed. As I prayed for her that day I realized that our meeting was for my benefit.

If Jesus came again today for the first time, where would he be found? In a beautiful church? Or in a place that at first would shock us and not seem to fit? In my mind I heard Him saying to me, “I really do love the world… “Go and do likewise…”

Take from: The OOZE

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Informed Doesn’t Equal Transformed

October 8, 2007

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There are some really positive things happening today in segments of my tribe and the religious world in general. When ever you throw off the chains of legalism, and allow yourself to think outside the box that tradition created for you, that can be a good thing. I am hearing more and more about “kingdom living”, and realizing that we are indwelt by the Spirit, and that our motive for service is that “God presence” with us, along with the gratitude we feel in our hearts for what has been done for us that we could not do for ourselves.

While there have been some good changes, without question more change needs to come. But there are some things I hope we don’t change. I hope we don’t change our emphasis on knowing the scripture. One of the great strengths of the restoration movement was that it was led by men who knew the scripture. That was a proud tradition of my tribe when I was growing up as well. But today I am seeing less of an emphasis on the individual responsibility and more of a dependence upon a corporate kind of knowledge. I am seeing more of an event oriented approach to teaching as opposed to individual discipleship. What I am referring to is more than teaching people the Bible…imparting information…I am talking about teaching that results in transformation of character.

I have always been impressed with Paul’s approach to sharing the Gospel in and from Ephesus. Note these few verses from Acts. 19: 8-10 “Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. ” Paul followed his custom of beginning in the Synagogue, but ends up in a lecture hall. The result of his two year stay was that all of Asia heard the Gospel. I am convinced that more was happening here than just transferring information from one person to another. Informed doesn’t mean transformed. Paul was taking pagans and turning them into disciples willing to put it all on the line for the Master. Read the verses that follow the ones above and see how Luke describes the results of Paul’s labors.

In Matthews account of what we call “The Great Commission” Jesus said, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “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.” Matt. 28:18-20. Note he did not say make converts, or just baptize any and all who came. He said “make disciples” and when that mindset is present, “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you…”

The group that has come to be known as the International Churches of Christ (ICOC), has it roots in our tribe. They did not start out as a cult. Many of the principles they used in the early days were not only valid, they were and are Biblical! That whole scenario is a classic example of throwing the baby our with the bath water. For fear of being associated with a cult, we just quit thinking about practicing discipleship at all! Discipleship is not a dirty word. To convey the concept today I prefer the term apprentice. Apprentices learn by being taught, watching the work being done, and they learn by doing.

When Paul meets with the elders from the church in Ephesus here is what he said about his time with them, “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” Acts 20:21-21. Did you catch that? He taught them that they must “turn to God in repentance” I don’t think anyone in his right mind would not want to go to Heaven, but repentance…well that may be a different matter. Repentance brings transformation of character.

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The Power of Drama

September 3, 2007

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Drama is becoming a powerful teaching tool. Check out the following video my daughter sent. Powerful message. Click here.

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Christian Women’s Job Corps

July 30, 2007

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This an article that appeared in the Tennesseean, our local newspaper concerning a new outreach work housed at Madison. My wife Barb is among those working with Dawn Ferguson on the expansion of this program to Madison.

Christian corps offers women chance to be mentors to others


Women interested in volunteering as teachers, mentors or child-care providers in Madison have a new opportunity now that the Christian Women’s Job Corps is preparing to open a satellite facility there Sept. 10.

“We’re in the process of training right now,” says Dawn Ferguson, coordinator of the satellite that will hold classes at the Madison Church of Christ, 106 North Gallatin Road, while conducting business from an office in the First Baptist Church of Madison, 719 South Gallatin Road.

The corps has for 10 years offered hope and training for women through classes and mentoring, most recently at the former Rescue Mission building at 128 Eighth Ave. S. in downtown Nashville.

The nonprofit’s goal is to help women escape the cycle of poverty by gaining professional and personal skills.

More than 700 women and their families have benefited from the downtown Nashville program over the past decade, according to Ferguson. (Click here to read the rest of the article.)

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Irresistible Revolution

July 27, 2007

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“Don’t the Bible say we must love everybody?” “O, the Bible! To be sure, it says a great many things; but, then, nobody ever thinks of doing them.” Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncles Tom’s Cabin.

I am presently reading, “The Irresistible Revolution”, by Shane Claiborne. I had seen a number of reviews about the book, but was moved yesterday to buy it, and it has captivated me since I began reading. From his stories of working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, to his work with “The Simple Way”, in Philadelphia, I have been challenged to the very core of my being.

Some will consider him radical, and maybe that is the reason for the sub title of the book, “living as an ordinary radical”. But he is more like a gentle prophet who doesn’t pull any punches, but at the same time speaks with love and devotion. Shane attended Eastern College and one of his teachers was Tony Campolo. He said that Tony said, “Jesus never says to the poor, ‘Come find the church,’ but he says to those of us in the church, ‘Go into the world and find the poor, hungry, homeless, imprisoned,’ Jesus in his disguises.” Shane took that lesson to heart. I personally have felt for a long time that our giving to a common treasury that uses a third part to meet the needs of the poor keeps them at arms length and robs us of many blessings. Shane says, “I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.” P113.

The consequences of the way we show benevolence causes both the giver and the receiver to miss out on the blessings of the gift. “When the church becomes a place of brokerage rather than an organic community, she ceases to be alive. She ceases to be something we are, the living bride of Christ. The church becomes a distribution center, a place where the poor come to get stuff and the rich come to dump stuff. Both go away satisfied (the rich feel good, the poor get clothed and fed), but no one leaves transformed. No radical new community is formed.” P159

If we were to compare what we as Christians spend on brick and mortar, something Jesus said nothing about, to what is spent meeting the needs of the poor, something Jesus talked about constantly, we would surly hang our heads in shame. Rob Bell said about Shane’s book, “Be warned, my friends: Shane is a poet, a friend, a brother – but underneath it all, he’s a prophet with a fire in his belly and a story to back it up. If you listen – or in this case, read – you will not be the same.”   

I did…and I won’t!

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More Thoughts On Change

July 25, 2007

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In my post from last week, “When Change Must Come…How?” I touched on three different ways we have been approaching the need to bring about change in the church. One, start over with like minded people in a completely new work. Two, multiple choice services (traditional, conservative, etc.) to please as many people as possible. And then finally, set the new direction, move ahead and let the chips fall where they may. All three types are represented here in the area where I live. In my estimation the most successful works, so far, have been the first and the third approaches.

But there is a common weight they all seem to be dragging along with them, and that is a large overhead expense. The vast majority of the funds that are generated by all of these works go to pay for creature comforts for the members in the form of a nice building. The existing groups perceived needs are at the fore front of each of these, and not so much the community they are trying to reach. What if works began with the perceived needs of others in mind? What if the major change we considered was doing what ever we do to reach those who do not know Jesus.

The life of Jesus was about serving others and meeting their needs. While it would require a new paradigm, some out of the box thinking, maybe that is the direction we should go. Some works begin and develop in the simplest ways. Jimmy Dorrell tells in an interview with the Whitenburg Door Magazine how the “Church under the Bridge” started. “This is one of those things that God birthed it for us. We went down to do a Bible study for five homeless men about 14 years ago, and we took them to breakfast and hung out with them and they asked us back, and five became seven and seven became 10 and all of a sudden a Baylor kid walked across the street to see what we were doing. We didn’t go down there to start a church, it just sort of emerged. And that’s been part of the joy of it. This was not some entrepreneurial effort, this was God’s gift to us. But it’s the church I’ve wanted to be a part of all my life. That insatiable desire inside to be a part of something valid. It happened, after years of prayer and waiting, and not something we manipulated.”

Find a need and fill it has been a motto for success in business for as long as I can remember. It has a spiritual application as well. Meeting perceived needs often leads to opportunities to meet spiritual needs. But most of the time we have offered to meet those needs only to those who were will to come to us. We invited them into our world. Many with real needs will never come into our world. They are too intimidated by our buildings, cars and nice clothes. Jesus never had that problem. He simply marched right into their world, and touched, fed, healed and embraced. The example of Jesus is a visible demonstration of the difference between Attractional and Incarnational Ministry. The challenge we all face is learning how, in practical ways to be incarnational. Could it be that if we were more incarnational in our approach to ministry we would find ourselves less dependent upon our buildings and more effective in reaching those in our communities who don’t know Him? Could it be they don’t know Him because they have never seen Him in action?

“…your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”, Matt. 5:16

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Attractional VS Incarnational

July 5, 2007

While doing research for a lesson for this Sunday evening at Madison I ran across the following chart. It makes a couple points I have not seen before. I would be interested to know what you think about it.

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