I don’t want to lead a “church”.  That probably sounds weird since I’m a pastor of a church.    By saying that, I mean “church” as most in America probably would define the term.         (BTW, I LOVE leading MJLife!)

Most would define “church” as something you go to on Sundays.  I’ve been guilty of slipping into the mindset at times too.  Living for each Sunday. Concentrating on how to “inspire” the masses that come to church on Sunday.

While MJLife certainly assembles on Sunday and we think it is HIGHLY important to be committed to coming EVERY Sunday if you are a part of our fellowship, our goal and mission is NOT to get people to come to “church” on Sundays.

Our goal is to “help people move from where they are to where God wants them to be.”

I believe if we’re successful at that, “church” becomes more than just getting the numbers up on Sundays for an hour long meeting.  It’s about a movement that happens between the Sundays.  Sundays would be a time that those in the movement would get together to encourage each other, learn a bit, continue worshipping God, and get ready to keep the movement going for the next week.

The movement that I’m pushing looks like this:

  • Families praying with their kids and sharing their ministries with them.
  • People seeing difficult people with God’s eyes and responding the way He wants them to respond.
  • Releasing people to minister where GOD leads them to serve in the community.
  • Believers keeping an eye out for evidence of God at work and running to join Him, no matter how inconvenient it is at them moment.
  • People rearranging their entire lives to get in line with living how God wants them to live.
  • Those labeled “sinners” by the religious (as if we all aren’t sinners) being loved on with no strings attached.
  • People radically sold out to the message to love that Jesus talked about.

MJLife now has a building, but that’s not the church.  We’re the church and we’re part of a movement.  God is moving.  We need to join Him and work with Him.

Around us at work, in the neighborhood, and in the grocery store are people that are hurting.  They may or may not look like us, but they are filled with broken dreams and disappointments.  Their dream marriages have broken up.  Kids have rebelled.  Some are attracted to the opposite sex.  Bank accounts are empty.  Some have lost their jobs.

People matter to Him, even if they aren’t very religious.  Jesus loved the unlovable.  MJLife is not and well NEVER be the perfect “church” but we have the perfect Savior who forgives us.  He loves people.  He accepts everyone as they are.  He encourages them to take their next steps.   He started a movement.  We just want to keep it going everyday of the week and do our part here in our area.  If He leads outside of the area, we want to be ready to follow Him there too.

We want to help people, no matter where they are in their journey, to go from where they are to where God wants them to be….  And we’re moving to get there ourselves at the same time.

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A few years ago I was coaching my son Matthew in baseball and another player’s dad, Keith, began helping with the team.  We became friends and he invited me to go deep sea fishing with him.   I loved fishing in the ocean and said “YES” very quickly.

Keith was an un-churched guy and the friends that he invited were also not Christ-followers.  We met at 3:00 a.m. to begin our journey to slay as many Red Snapper and Grouper that we could that day.  Keith’s two friends and I jumped in his car and took off for the ocean.

It wasn’t long before it was obvious that my buddy had forgotten to tell his friends that there was a pastor in the car.  (Something that I found extremely hilarious, yet not even necessary.)

Everything that anyone said, these two guys laughed histerically and said all kinds of words that you’ll never hear unless you’re around a bunch of drunken sailors.  They weren’t just the standard 4 letter variety.  The language was very creative and rapid fire through the laughter, every couple of minutes.

I could tell that Keith had begun sweating as he drove.  He had invited his new friend, the pastor, and hadn’t thought of warning his friends.  I didn’t have much of a problem with it but I could tell that Keith was dying up front out of embarrassment.

Sometimes believers have expectations of everyone, including those who are far from God.  They get irritated if everyone they come in contact with doesn’t act like a Christian.   This pastor does have a problem with someone who calls themselves a mature follower of Jesus if they spew cursing and gossip constantly without remorse.   (James 3:10)  Those who have never claimed to walk closely with Jesus and new believers, however, get alot of grace from me.  The heart is what needs changing.  That’s the core problem.  The language is just the symptom.  If they get to know Jesus, nothing usually has to be said.  Jesus does the changing from the inside out.

As Keith kept sweating up front, I could tell that he was trying to figure out how to get them to stop cursing as much.  Finally, Keith said very loudly through their laughter, “Hey Eddie! I WANT TO COME TO YOUR CHURCH THE NEXT TIME YOU ARE PREACHING AT YOUR CHURCH BECAUSE THE NEXT TIME YOU PREACHING AT YOUR CHURCH, I WANT TO COME AND HEAR YOU PREACH…..  AT YOUR CHURCH!”

When he finished saying that, the two hyenas stopped in their tracks.  I wish I had a picture of their faces.  It was one of the most hilarious things that I’ve ever experienced.  It was like their momma caught them stealing from the cookie jar and they were naked during the theft.  They turned and looked at me in horror.  Funny stuff!

Jesus was a friend of sinners and Christ followers should be too.  Those who claim to follow Jesus should be intentional about making relationships with those who are far from God. (Matthew 9:10-12) That’s hard to do that from a holy huddle.  You sometimes have to step out of your comfort zone.  It takes being interested, really interested in the lives of others.

Caring for people means more than getting another notch on your Bible.  People know if you really love and accept them as they are.  We’re called to love people with no strings attached  and people can tell the difference.

In the case of my friend Keith, after many conversations, fishing trips, and baseball games, he rededicated his life to Christ, began coming to church, and was baptized.   He also began to warn his friends whenever I came over to hang out.  Lol  Something I wish he didn’t do!

Do you think it’s important to invest in people’s lives who aren’t part of the church crowd?  Is it ok to curse everywhere except around the pastor?  lol

The LifeSaving Station

December 21, 2011

This parable has been instrumental in helping me keep my priorities straight concerning the local church for many years.  I read it often and pray not to every become like what is described, from a leader’s point of view.  The parable is derived from a story by William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army.  I even have the piece of art below, by Mauricio Palacio,  framed depicting the story.  I hope the story means as much to you as it has to me:

On a dangerous sea coast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and gave of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little life-saving station grew.

Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully because they used it as a sort of club.

Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work.

The life-saving motif still prevailed in the club’s decorations, and there was a liturgical life-boat in the room where the club’s initiations were held. About this time a large ship wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house build outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split among the club membership.

Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club.

Some members insisted upon life-saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station. So they did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another life-saving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that sea coast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.

——–

I pray that MJLifeChurch never looses sight of our vision.  I pray that we never loose compassion, love, and concern for those that are far from God.

What’s one thing that bothers you about churches, hypocrites, and “Christians” that forget their mission?