COMFORT ZONE

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Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  –Psalm 23:4

Every time I pick a nice smooth path for my life, God seems to jerk me out of my comfort zone.

I tend to gravitate towards Christianity that is…comfortable.

That, however, is not the example Christ set for us.

Christ was uninterested in the easy road.  Instead, he made a bee-line for injustice, for people who were hurting, for the forgotten ones.

Do I have to do the same thing?

Because…well, here’s my “outside my comfort zone” list (make your own):

  • I’m outside my comfort zone when I talk to strangers–especially when it comes to talking about my faith.
  • I’m outside my comfort zone when I’m surrounded by people whose values may or may not match my own.
  • I’m outside my comfort zone when serving somebody isn’t enough — an actual relationship is called for.
  • I’m outside my comfort zone when God prods me to dare beyond the status quo.
  • I’m outside my comfort zone when I face the possibility of rejection.
  • I’m outside my comfort zone when I’m in the valley of the shadow of death.

The valley of the shadow of death?  Yeah.  I think of that as our mission field.  That’s where so many hurt and lost people are living.

We’re called to connect with them, scary as it may be.

But here’s some Good News: Psalm 23 says “thy rod and thy staff they COMFORT me.”

You get it?  God establishes a comfort zone even in the most uncomfortable place imaginable.

That means when we serve people, when we invite people to know about Christ, when we challenge the forces of darkness, God is there, comforting us.

Hear these words from Isaiah:

Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”  –Isaiah 40:1,3-5

One day, “every valley shall be raised up”.

Until then, that’s where the work of the faithful must be done.

Yes, it will likely be outside your comfort zone.

But not God’s.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Some new Church Words

I’ve coined a few new Church Words.

(Who knows, some of them may already exist…)

Use them freely!

Catholic church in New York“PEWNY”:  The state or condition of having
fewer people than usual in the pews on Sunday morning.

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corneliaumc_1_1“TRADIGITAL WORSHIP”: Old-time hymns
projected on new-fangled screens.

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159235441_eccumenical-desk-wax-seal-stamp-of-william-temple-“ECCUMANIACAL”:  A community worship service
planned by severely dysfunctional churches/pastors.

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simpsons-in-church_thumb[10]“MARGE”:  Designation for a church too big
to be medium-sized and too small to be large.

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tithe“LITHE”: 1/3 less giving than a regular Tithe.

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Evangelism-oh-no-300x233“EVANGERATISM”:  Spreading the Good News, but only to people you like.

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A free flying white dove isolated on a black background

“LENTECOST”:  When you feel the Holy Spirit before Easter.

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Pasteurized-Milk-Processing-Line-From-Jouyu-Group“PASTORIZED”: When the preacher’s sermon is
good enough to last you a whole week.

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Adam Hamilton Photo and Book 03062014“HAMILTONNE”: The collected weight of all of a church’s
Adam Hamilton books and video series.

.

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eggs benedict“EGGS BENEDICTION”:  When you want the pastor to hurry up
so you can go get brunch.

.

It took a while to come up with ten!   Vote for your favorites in the comments.

And if you’ve created some of your own church words, add those too!

In the meantime…Have a great week,

(and a non-pewny Sunday)

Mitch

JESUS vs. SPOCK

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HOST:  Welcome to today’s theological olympics!

In this corner, looking positively radiant, we have The Savior of the Universe, Jesus!

And in this corner, with eyebrows raised, we have everybody’s favorite Vulcan, Mr. Spock!

Gentlemen, are you read for today’s question?  Here we go:

“You have 100 sheep.  1 is missing.  What do you do?”

JESUS:  Well, I actually told a story about this.  I would go after that lost sheep. And then rejoice after finding it.”

SPOCK: Fascinating.  Logic would dictate that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.

HOST:  Ahh, we have a moral conundrum!  I’m curious, folks at home, what do you think?

Which is more important — reaching out to the lost, or feeding and caring for the flock?

It’s certainly a question that has gripped Christianity in the last few years.  For decades, many of our churches have turned inward, which means they stopped looking for the lost.  Nowadays, some have advocated drastic changes in our churches, so that virtually all our efforts would go towards reaching out.

JESUS:  That is the Great Commandment I gave, after all.

SPOCK: It seems illogical to pursue those on the fringes at the detriment of those at the center.  Does it not make more sense to sacrifice that one lost sheep so that the flock can continue?

JESUS:  Actually, Mr. Spock, I know a little something about sacrifice.  I was willing to sacrifice myself, for the good of the whole.

SPOCK: As was I.  My point exactly.

JESUS:  Yes, but my sacrifice was to show that love of the lost, the forgotten,  and those on the fringes is so important so as to be worth dying for. It is that kind of love, in action, that must animate any flock that bears the name Christian.

SPOCK:  (Pause)  Fascinating.  (Nods, slowly)  I believe, Jesus, that your proposition is highly logical.

HOST:  And there you have it!  Even Mr. Spock can see that, as Christians, “The Needs of The Many” can only truly be met when they are caring for “The Needs Of The Few.”

That’s it for this edition of the theological olympics.

Live Long And Help Others Propser!

Have a good week,

Mitch

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Being nice to people who don’t go to your church.

My church has started a new team we’ve called “Community Connections”.

Our mission statement is simple: “Being nice to people who don’t go to our church”.

As evangelism goes, it’s decidedly lightweight. But it may be the best place to start.

We’ve been looking for friendly, non-pushy, non-preachy ways to let people in our community know that we like them. (If they know we like them, perhaps they’ll give us a chance to show them that we love them.)

It may be the most basic level of evangelism, but it’s still one that comes hard for some churches, including ours.

Here’s how we got up and running:

Delicious Team Meetings.

There are about 10 of us on the team. Our task is to help the congregation find ways to connect with the community.

So, from the beginning, we have never met inside the church.

Instead? Our team tends to meet in various Mexican restaurants around town. I highly recommend this for all committee meetings.

Sitting at tables in a busy restaurant can make it a little hard to hear, but we’ve gladly exchanged Robert’s Rules for chips and salsa.

It’s made planning fun and kept us focused on the world outside our church.

The 30% Club.

Speaking of restaurants…

Our first project took almost no effort. We had little business-size cards printed up with our church logo, address, and website.

Then, we invited the congregation to take some cards and be part of the 30% club.

Here are the rules:

  1. Go out to eat.
  2. Tip 30%
  3. Leave a card.

That’s it. Our town has lots of restaurants and lots of waiters and waitresses struggling to make ends meet. By tipping such a large amount and leaving a card, we’re letting people know our church cares.

We were sure to tell people NOT to leave a card if they chose to leave a low tip due to poor service! And the cards didn’t say something like “30% club” on them, or even an invitation to church.

This wasn’t to be a bribe. Just a gift.

We didn’t know how the congregation would embrace this first project, but response was amazing. We ran out of cards and had to print more.

People loved this simple way of sharing a kindness with somebody.

Anything goes.

Our ideas seem to take us all over the place. From “random-acts-of-kindness”, like handing out bottles of water to hot downtown shoppers, to inviting community children to a kite festival, or an upcoming blessing of the animals, we’ve picked the ideas that we felt passionate about and run with them.

We’re lucky to have a graphic designer who can put together beautiful posters advertising our events, but have had to remind ourselves they’re only useful if people are willing to put them up all over town.

Let’s share.

Does your church have something like our Community Connection Team? Share what’s worked for you in the comments below.

For us, we’ve found that instead of wishing we could get more people inside the church, we’ve been having a blast finding ways to get us outside.

A church is surely meant for more than just to be “nice” to its neighbors…

But I’ll bet you a burrito it’s worth the effort.