Archives For Church
The best thing a church has to offer has nothing to do with the programs, children’s service, contemporary music, contemplative moments, symbols or sacraments.
It’s not practical teaching around a series, or an exegetical journey through a book.
It’s not a building that looks like a warehouse or a building laid of stone in the early century.
It’s not chairs and not pews. It’s not video games for students or video behind a band of guitars.
It’s not pallet walls or coffee that was acquired fairly. It’s not a man in a robe or a teacher who looks like a host on MTV.
It’s not degrees behind a name or number of prayer meetings a week.
The best thing the church has to offer is us.
Because when people get close to the body of Jesus, they get close to Jesus.
They get close to experiencing the amazing love of Jesus that we,so graciously, are empowered and called to give.
They are close to the good news of Jesus that will wreck anyone for the good.
When people far from God get close to Jesus by getting close to the people of Jesus, our life story becomes the opportunity to share His story.
Why do we need more churches?
This is why.
People don’t see Jesus until they first see the Church of Jesus. By seeing the church of Jesus, they see Jesus in the Church.
People don’t experience the amazing grace of Jesus until they experience grace from the Church of Jesus.
People don’t encounter the love of Jesus until they encounter the love from the Church.
So on Sunday, when you go to that building people label a church, think about it…
What is the best thing we have to offer?
If each church is part of the Church Jesus is building (Matthew 16:18) then it is imperative we reflect the mission of God.
I love how WFCSA is a reflection of the heartbeat of God for Port Elizabeth.
Every week there is a variety of people.
Some have followed Jesus for many years. Others for days. And the ones I’m excited for—those who are not following Jesus but exploring it. Today we had a man here for the third time. It is his third time ever in a church. He is Muslim.
Different Countries and Cultures.
Jesus didn’t come for one nationality. He came for the world. The diverse, mosaic of people He has created. The church should reflect His heart and accept those outside our cultural connect.
So they have a different accent or even language. They have traditions I don’t have. They are important to Jesus so they are important to us.
You could find Jesus with the extremely poor and the extremely wealthy. He didn’t show favoritism to one group over the other. Neither should the church.
I love the fact I could introduce you to friends on Sunday who spent last week on the street and you could see them talking to a man or woman who spent last week in the boardroom.
Culture, context and class may be different but we all know we are the same. Broken people who need Jesus.
Since we know Jesus has given us something so amazing in His love and grace, we can’t help but to make room for more.
More people who are broken, looking to be restored.
More people who are rejected and looking for acceptance.
More people who are needing value.
More people who are pursuing fainting achievements but need of finding rest in knowing Jesus.
More people who are exhausted trying to find significance but need to find their identity in Jesus.
To paraphrase William Temple:
The church is the only gathering who exists for those not there.
Westside Family Church South Africa is joining Jesus on His mission by reaching out to those who are not here. We won’t stop either because we believe can reach one more.
A little over a month ago I began to think about what our church is doing well that is generating momentum. My question led me to investigate and explore the intangible values that we are embracing as a church. I wanted to know what we unknowingly are doing that people are connecting with.
As I looked at processes and listen to first time guests responses and read their comments I began to see an emerging pattern. The more I narrowed my list down, the more these three qualities stood out in the working DNA of our small, but growing church.
“I felt so welcomed.”
Almost every visitor, and regular that told me about their first experience used those words, “I felt so welcomed.” Then a good percentage of the people would follow that up with, “No one judged me.”
I wanted to drill these statements down to a value and then take that value and turn it into an action to repeat. What I saw was that we were creating, or had created, a culture of acceptance.
I guess we talked about it enough, taught about it enough, and modeled it enough that our people had naturally began to make this a part of their own DNA. When someone,who wasn’t like them—whether they were of a different color, class, or context—our people have been accepting them.
“They are always asking me to take my next step.”
That’s exactly what we do every week. We challenge people.
We accept them as they are and then challenge them that God doesn’t want to leave them the same.
We challenge people by helping them recognize where they are and how applying the truth of scripture can take them further on their faith journey.
There is a reason why we can challenge people and they not feel judged. First because we accept them and secondly because of the last thing people tell us.
I felt good about myself when I left.
The reason people leave with a positive feeling is because they were not just accepted but they were additionally encouraged.
A challenge without encouragement is like running a race without a crowd. It’s harder and easier to give up. Whenever we encourage one another, we are lending them some of our courage.
One of the best ways to encourage someone is to share your story of how you took your next step and overcame that same challenge.
A DNA to Cultivate
This is what we told our Westside Leaders here in Port Elizabeth. We gave them the challenge to:
Accept people because we were accepted by Jesus.
Challenge people to take their next step.
Encourage people by sharing our story and acknowledging their strengths.
It’s not cliche for me to say this, but I believe if we are truly accepting people as they are, challenging them to grow, and encouraging them along the way, we will be able to influence more people.
Then we can lead them to accept others, challenge them, and encourage them to influence others the same way they were influenced.
I believe this could work within any organization, not just a church or non profit. I believe it could work for any context. It lets people know you believe in them and that you are willing to go with them and not just point the way.
How can this work in your context?
For those who don’t like acronyms I want to apologize. I am still, and will probably always be, one who likes to make things memorable. So if it rhymes or if it can spell a word, I will use it unashamedly—knowing it isn’t cool.
It was a moment for me to be proud of what God is doing.
Let me set up why…
Several months ago I met a young man who was from Johannesburg. I was talking with Larry, who was at McDonald’s with me for our Life Group. After our morning group we walked outside and there was this young man. He asked if we had some change to spare so he could get some bread. I had R20 on me and gave it to him and Larry gave him some money too. The young man then went inside bought a meal and then apologized to Larry and I for leaving. He walked over to a family, who spent the night next to an abandoned restaurant. He gave the family the remainder of his change. This was so unlike anything I expected. I expected him to pocket the change. But, he didn’t. He was without but gave his excess to someone who was in need. So generous of him. So humbling for me.
Little did I know I would run into this young man every couple of weeks. I didn’t give him money, but he knew I cared for him. I would always invite him to our church. I knew our people would accept him. I wasn’t afraid of what our people would think. He gave me the same answer I get a lot “I’ll be there.”
I invite dozens of people to church every week. I guess I am calloused now as I don’t expect them to be telling me the truth. I spin it thinking to myself that they want to come in the moment but forget on Sunday.
I invited the young man to come hang with us guys at 6am on Wednesday mornings and I’ll buy his breakfast. He never came.
Time went by. I saw him on the road and I’d wave and he’d wave back.
Four weeks ago the young man came and as I expected, our people welcomed him, served him, and treated him with respect—not as someone off the street.
We were in the last part of a series talking about living out what it means to love as Jesus loved us. We were having baptisms that day, and this young man said he needed to get his life straight and he needed to begin with his relationship with Jesus. He talked to Steve—our other pastor here—asking Steve if he could get baptized. Steve made sure he understood what salvation and baptism were. We wanted to make sure he didn’t think a prayer and dunk were a formula to getting his life straight, but it was about our full trust and faith in Jesus by receiving what He’s already done for us.
We baptized this young man that day. He even bought a friend who had been giving him a place to sleep. The friend wasn’t a Jesus follower but cheered the young man along as he, Steve, and I walked into the extremely cold Indian Ocean in the beginning of winter.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical. Sad isn’t it!? But I thought he might be doing this to get the church to help him get back on his feet as others have attempted with us.
However, against my skepticism and in line with Holy Spirit enabled life change, this young man has been following Jesus. He took our “Get Started” scripture reading sheets and has been reading the text on them and writing down how he will apply the truth. He has been coming to our life group and weekend services consistently. He’s following Jesus and even working hard to find a job.
Today, he invited three men who had lost their jobs and were in transit to a town a couple hours away. He told them they need to come to Westside Family Church because it’s a church who accepts you wherever you are in life.
That is what Westside did for him. That is what Jesus did for him. You might think I got the order wrong and Jesus should been mentioned first there, and maybe I did.
But, I think the church is the first experience most people have with Jesus. If the church doesn’t accept them, then why would Jesus. Sad, but it’s true with a lot of people who visit churches on the weekend hoping to find the good news for their life. First starting with the thought that someone accepts me.
That is the first good news I see in the gospel of Jesus. I am accepted. But that isn’t always what our message is by the actions we show. This young man experienced it and he knew if he invited others in the same place of life he was in, the church would accept them too.
That was the gospel and the good news being declared today. It wasn’t in the teaching or song but in the love of one young man who was accepted inviting three other men to come to a community where he knew they would be accepted.
After church, one of our ladies went to the grocery store down the road to buy bread, milk, and a lunch for these three men. Her gift is hospitality. She’s in charge of our first impressions and today she made a lasting impression when she saw their need and met it.
That is our church! That is the Church!
The church should be a place of acceptance. Why? Because Jesus accepted us. It doesn’t matter your class, race, gender, or age, we all need to be accepted and it’s the body of Christ’s charge to accept others.
The church sees a need and, in love, meets the need.
Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a church who accepts you as you are? Who encourages you by loving you sometimes by meeting your need? Who challenges you not to stay the same but to follow Jesus and let His grace, love, and life bring you life? A church like this would be irresistible. I believe we all want this type of church.
I’m privileged to be a part of a church like this.
Thank you Westside Family Church for joining Jesus in His mission of saving people by first accepting them!