Categories
Good News

A House of Good News

What if everyone on my block knew who I was? What if other people on my block knew each other because I introduced them? What if I knew what the needs of my neighbors were and were in a position to activate others to help? And what if I had an eye to initiate or come alongside a program to serve my neighborhood as quickly as I come alongside my church?

That would be good news in my neighborhood, wouldn’t it?

That would look a lot like Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:39, wouldn’t it? 

Love your neighbor as yourself.

It’s one of those obvious things we don’t do. If you are like me you think, “Gosh, that would be cool. But I’m not _____.” [Insert your excuse, mine is too busy already.]

But think of the possibility of this dream. What if my neighborhood were good news for residents? What if, compelled by a love for Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, neighbors got to know one another, learned to love one another, and helped to meet one another’s practical needs. What if people thought about the place that they live as a source of life instead of just a place to live?

Is that possible?

Of course it is. We believe Jesus at His word on so many other levels, why not the most basic one? Love your neighbor as yourself. He didn’t say, love your family as yourself or love your church as yourself or love your TV as yourself or love the idea of a neighbor as you love yourself.

You and I are the change agents who can make this happen. Ephesians 2:10 is clear, we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works. So let’s get on that horse and do some good works!

You just have to push away the voices inside of you that tells you it isn’t your job. Or that being involved at _____ is enough. Or that you are too busy, your neighbors are annoying, they don’t want to know one another. On and on. Don’t let the voice of doubt win.

5 First Steps You Can Do This Week

  1. Learn 5 names you don’t already know on your block.
  2. Create a simple drawing for your fridge. Make a box for every house and put names in every box.
  3. Take a slow walk every day this week on your block with the intention of saying learning names. “Hi, I’m ___. What’s your name?” You can do that. This works well after work when people are out and about. It also works great in the morning if you have a dog. (The dog will love this!)
  4. Pick the newest person on your block and intentionally introduce yourself. Welcome them to the neighborhood.
  5. Tell 1 person your dream for the block, that it would be a place where neighbors are not strangers.

You’ve got this. You can do it! 

Categories
Church Leadership hmm... thoughts

What Good Works?

church-ephesians-2-10

I’m a rubber meets the road kind of guy. I want to know the big picture early on in a discussion. And I want to know what I’m being asked to do.

Perhaps that is why I’ve always wrestled with Ephesians 2:8-10.

For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith– and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

In this passage Paul addresses the question, “Why are we saved?” More importantly, he points us to the biggest struggle of the church today: Do we exist, as believers, for the church’s good works or for the good works of the city we live in?

I think church leaders morph the meaning of this verse and lift it out of context for their own purposes.

Church leaders interpretation: You were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, and we’re going to point you to good works right here in the church building. We have many programs of the church that could use your good works… especially in the nursery. Did you know we have a growing nursery and a shrinking pool of volunteers willing to hold babies so their parents can worship Sunday morning?

Let’s be honest. That’s a very seperatist view of the the world. Much of what we do as church leaders is kingdom building for our local church. We address our most current need as if it were the communities most current need. In America, our view of a  good church is one that is full of people, has a great pastor, and has a huge building. But what good are those things to the people of the community? Do they see the church as a place of good news for them? In most cases they don’t. American churches serve themselves more than they serve the community! Most churches in our country have little to no impact on the community they live in. They reach 2-3% of the populuation and all of their programs essentially benefit themselves or that 2-3% of the population who come to their building to worship.

To the community– a lot of churches are bad news.

Paul’s explanation in Ephesians 2:12-13: (The part pastors don’t read when asking you to volunteer for something) “Remember that at that time [before you were saved] you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ”

Paul is reminding his people… you were once locked out of the being a part of God’s family because you weren’t born into it. But Jesus tore down that wall of separation. There is no “good works for Jesus” and “good works for the world” in God’s eyes. A good work is a good work. Verse 14 makes this even more explicit, “For he himself if our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

So… why are we saved? What is our purpose in the city we live in? To do good works both within the church and outside. There is no separation and one is not better than the other. They are both good works! The purpose of the church isn’t to create a holy huddle… it’s to create a sending place of good works and renewal into the places we live.

Perhaps this is why the program-driven church is so repulsive to people exploring a walk with Jesus today. They read the New Testament for themselves and cannot reconcile what is described as a movement of God’s people to change the world with the church they are presented with… one that exists to feed its programs.