Thursday, June 15, 2017

Live Your Life in Balance

When I was in college, I worked with a Christian youth organization called Youth for Christ/Campus Life. Back in those days we had a theme verse we taught the students about living a balanced life. The verse was Luke 2:52, ‘And Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.’

Jesus gives us a clear framework for personal growth in four distinct areas.
1.        Personal growth means growing in wisdom. Remember the phrase, ‘A mind is a terrible thing to waste?’ Growing your mind isn’t something that stops with graduation. It’s a lifelong pursuit. Do you want a stronger mind? Live life and pay attention along the way: read, listen, ask questions, go places, see things, take on projects and challenges, or take a course in something. Never stop learning and applying what you learn.
2.       Personal growth means improving our physical health. Luke was writing about Jesus when He was an adolescent growing into a man and perhaps just talking about that natural process of growth. But I believe there is an application here: If a mind is a terrible thing to waste, so is a body. We should eat well, sleep well, exercise well, and live well. After all, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
3.       Personal growth means growing up spiritually. Jesus grew spiritually; He grew ‘in favor with God.’ It’s an amazing thought, since He was God but He was also human. So often I see people around me who have never experienced spiritual growth. You may ask: Why aren’t they experiencing growth? My answer: It takes time, energy, desire, and effort just like any other area. To grow in any area, there is a cost; many are unwilling to pay the price. Jesus disciplined Himself to grow spiritually.
4.       Personal growth means growing socially and relationally. John Donne in 1624 said, ‘No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.’ God created us for relationship. With family. With friends. With Him. It’s in His design for us. Jesus came to serve others- to relate to others- to touch others. He gave of His time. He helped the hurting and the helpless. He protected the defenseless. He wants us to do the same. You can’t influence the world in isolation. You need people.
I want to challenge you to live a balanced life. A life like Jesus lived. A life of personal growth and development intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially. Live life to the fullest in Christ!

Blessings,
Mark "the Bru" Brunott


P.S. Is it okay for me to watch Game of Thrones? Can I watch something that is Rated R? How do I decide if I should or shouldn’t watch something with violence and sexual innuendos? Come this week at 9:15 and 11:00 to see what the Bible has to say about these questions. Bring a friend with you.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Grace Experienced

This last week I read a great book entitled ‘Grace is Greater,’ written by Kyle Idleman. I highly recommend this book because the focus is on God’s plan to overcome your past, redeem your pain, and rewrite your story.
Idleman states that “Grace is compelling when explained, but irresistible when experienced.” I love that concept highlighting grace as an ‘experience.’ Sometimes we forget how great God’s grace is because we have missed the reality and the depth of our sin. We haven’t applied grace in our experiences in life. So often we miss out on the grace of God because we think ‘I’m not that bad,’ ‘I’m not as bad as so and so.’ When we think like this, grace will never seem that good.
Idleman points out that grace is always greater than anything experienced in life. Consider the following:
  • Grace is powerful enough to erase your guilt.
  • Grace is big enough to cover your shame.
  • Grace is real enough to heal your relationships.
  • Grace is strong enough to hold you up when you’re weak.
  • Grace is sweet enough to cure your bitterness.
  • Grace is satisfying enough to deal with your disappointment.
  • Grace is beautiful enough to redeem your brokenness.
  • Grace is greater than your mistakes.
  • Grace is greater than your hurts.
Think about your experiences in this: some have been great, some haven’t, some have been delightful, some have been painful, some have been hopeful, and some have been disappointing. Whatever your circumstances, grace is always greater. The truth of God’s grace is this: No matter what you have done, no matter what has been done to you, you need to know that grace is greater.

Explaining God’s grace is necessary, but grace experienced is essential. Have you brought God’s grace into your experiences?

I Can't Remember Their Names

It happens to me all the time. I bump into somebody at Target, the hospital, in an elevator, at church, at an activity and they say, “Hey Mark, how’s it going,” and I freeze. I recognize them, but the name escapes me. I do a quick assessment. Do I know this person? Have I talked to this person before? When did we last talk? Where were we when we met? Why can’t I remember his/her name?

Instead of saying, ‘I’m sorry, your name is escaping me,’ I make matters worse. I talk with the person like I’ve known them all my life- trying somehow to get them to say their name in the conversation. Does this scenario sound familiar?

The truth is remembering names is hard; remembering people’s names is also important. You may try to excuse yourself saying, “I’m not good at remembering names.” But I don’t buy that. You probably know your families’ names, your street address, your phone number, and your social security number.

Name memory is not a spiritual gift or some kind of genetic trait that you inherit. People who are good at remembering names simply try harder and place a higher value on remembering names than others. You can do this!

Let me give you five simple things to help you remember names:
1.        Repeat names. Repetition builds memory. The more you repeat a person’s name, the better chance you will have of remembering it later. When you meet a person for the first time, say their name as much as possible. “Cool, Bill. Glad to see you Bill. It was nice meeting you, Bill.” The more you say it, the more it will stick.
2.       Read names. In your mind, visualize it. Spell it in your head, ask them to spell it. This may seem weird, but it works. Have you noticed how some people can tell you every football players’ name, stats, years they played on the Nebraska Cornhusker team? Chances are they read those names on the sports channel, programs, etc.
3.       Record names. If you want to remember the names, write them down on a piece of paper, put them into your phone, or take their picture with your cell phone and put their name by it.
4.       Relate names. Our brains remember images, not words. Turn their name into an image is the best way to recall it. Regan into ‘ray gun,’ Bakers into ‘bakers,’ and Brunott into ‘brew not coffee’.

5.        Remember to remember names. Make a conscious effort to hear the name, associate the name with something, listen to the name and make an effort to store it away.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What do you think?

This week I was reading a post from my favorite blog written by James Emery White. In the post, he points to an article written by Morgan Lee, “Many Practicing Christians Agree with Marxism (and Other Competing World Views)” in Christianity Today.

The article reveals the study of self-identified Christians, who attend church at least once every month, and say their faith is very important to their lives.

They were asked to rate their agreement or disagreement with various statements. As I share some of the results of the survey, I want you to ask yourself ‘what do I really think’ about this. Do you agree or disagree with the results? Why or why not?
  • Nearly 1 in 3 practicing Christians agreed with the idea that “if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad, you will receive bad.” In other words, the idea of karma.
  • 28% believe that “all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.” Welcome to New Age thinking. 
  • 27% believe that “meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is.” Can you say Hinduism?
Wait… it gets worse. 
  • 1 in 5 believe that “meaning and purpose come from working hard to earn as much as possible so you can make the most of life.” Can there be a clearer statement espousing raw materialism? 
  • 23% believe that “what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.” Yes, that is raw postmodern relativism. 
Overall, the study conducted by Barna Group and Summit Ministries claims:
  • 61% agree with ideas rooted in New Spirituality
  • 54% resonate with postmodernist views
  • 36% accept ideas associated with Marxism
  • 29% believe ideas based on secularism
Do you believe you have a firmly developed Christian Biblical world view? Is your world view consistent with your faith practice? Is your faith practice consistent with the Bible’s teachings?

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott

P.S. Why is it we spend so much time leveling up in our games? In Candy Crush, you strive to make it just one level higher. In Clash of Clans, clan hopping allows you to level-up faster. God has called us to level-up our own game when it comes to outreach. Join us this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 AM to learn how!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

An Interesting Proposal

Due to my bad back, bad knees, and bulbous belly, I haven’t backpacked in years. One of the things I miss about the great outdoors in the back country of the Colorado Rockies is the serenity. Except for the occasional call of a bull elk or the melodic chatter of the birds, the silence was golden. Those quiet times refueled my soul.
Believe it or not, I am an extrovert. I love people. I love to engage the crowds with smiles and conversations. That’s why, all the more, it’s hard work for me to pursue solitude. But I need it. We all need it.
Interestingly, many people are uncomfortable with silence. I know people who must have the radio, cd, or T.V. playing in the background all the time. I’m one of those people. But, with all the white noise, heads full of information, news, opinions, we’ve forgotten how to reflect, meditate, and think on our own.
We all must learn to take the time just to sit, think, and be quiet before God. We need to do this on a regular basis. It will do more good for us than the swirl of data we’re jamming into our heads. (Psalm 46:10, 37:7)
So here’s what I propose. Are you ready for this? I know you can do it.
  • Turn off the electronics for at least 30 minutes a day. (Yes, that means your smart phone.)
  • Take a walk some place other than main streets or the mall.
  • Clear some space in your closet if you must, crawl in there and close the door for 20 minutes.
  • Turn the radio, CD player off on the way home from work and think, ‘What did I learn today?’ and ‘What am I thankful for in my life?’
I am grateful for modern technology. I use it; I like it. But I will not let it rob me of what I need most: moments alone- quiet time with God to ponder, contemplate, and meditate on Him. Don’t wait for time alone to happen. Make it happen.

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott
P.S. This Sunday we celebrate moms- past, present, and future moms. I can think of no better way to celebrate them, than joining them at church. See you this Sunday at 9:15 and 11:00 AM.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

25 Things People want from Church


In this edition of Freshly Bru’d, I am listing 25 things people want from their church services. Would you take the time to read all 25 and see if you agree? These 25 come from surveys and conversations of hundreds of Sunday church attendees. These things should remind you of how much effort, planning, and prayer goes into the execution of our worship services.

  1. I want to leave a church service with a sense of awe, which only comes from not knowing what God will do next.
  2. I want to remember key details of the message the following Thursday. (This is why we provide sermon notes and utilize The You Version Bible app.)
  3. I want to experience something supernatural.
  4. I want my emotions moved.
  5. I want to experience joy.
  6. I want to be moved to tears.
  7. I want to be inspired.
  8. I want to be surprised.
  9. I want to be challenged.
  10. I want to be motivated.
  11. I want to walk away with a sense of hope.
  12. I want to feel energy from those on the platform.
  13. I want to walk away with something applicable, a key point.
  14. I want to meet some nice people.
  15. I want content that engages my mind and makes me think.
  16. I want to give my church my time and money. I really do.
  17. I want a sense of community.
  18. I want a musical experience that is engaging, powerful, and Christ-centered.
  19. I want to emulate the lives of those on the platform.
  20. I want opportunities presented in the service to serve after the service.
  21. I want to be convicted to repent.
  22. I want to laugh.
  23. I want to celebrate what God is doing in my life and the lives of others.
  24. I want excellence.
  25. I want to feel like I am part of a movement.
I’d like to add another one for good measure: I want to be changed. I want to walk out different from when I walked in.

What do you think? Do you have some of your own wants to add to the list?

Blessings,

P.S. What comes to mind when you read the word “love”? Is it thoughts of romance? A thought of safety? A thought of family? Join us Sunday at 9:15 am or 11 am to find out God’s definition of love and how it will lead you on an adventure unlike any other.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is everything. Seriously, everything. Especially when you realize how much you and I need it. I have lived about 23,500 days. Let’s say I only sin five times a day (it’s probably more like 30 times a day, but I can’t add up that many.) That means I have missed the mark of God’s perfection about 117,000 times in my life.
Missing the mark of God’s perfection is called sin. The Bible tells us we are all sinners. That is why we all need a Savior. Any time I miss the mark of perfection that qualifies as a sin in God’s eyes.
  • I think something that God never would think. Sin.
  • I look at something that God would never look at. Sin
  • I say something God would never say. Sin.
  • I don’t do or say something God would do or say. Sin.
  • I look at a person in a way God would never view a person. Sin.
  • I pretend to be something I’m not. Sin.
  • I react in fear rather than respond in faith. Sin.
  • I act selfishly. Sin.
  • I lie. Sin.
  • I treat my wife, children, grandchildren, family, or friends in an uncaring or thoughtless way. Sin.
Wow. Maybe I sin over 100 times a day. Four or five a day would be a good day.
Now, this sounds negative, doesn’t it? You might even be thinking, ‘I don’t like this blog. I should quit reading.’ Wait! Keep reading.
The good news is our sin(s) isn’t a secret to God, and it has never stopped Him from loving you and me. He sees everything you and I do. “Nothing in all of creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes.” (Hebrews 4:13)
Mind blowing to think He loves me, forgives me, no matter what. Why? Because of me? 
No. 
It’s because of Jesus- who is perfect and became the substitute for my sin when he died on the cross and was raised from the dead.
Now, because of Jesus’ work on the cross, my heavenly Father says…
  • He’s broken, but I can work with that since I’m bigger than his defects.
  • He’s failed me, but he’s forgiven because of my Son.
  • He’s not perfect (yet), but he’s still in progress, and I’ll never give up on him.
  • He’s a mess sometimes, but he’s my mess and my child and the apple of my eye.
I’m His. Period. End of story.

My fellowship with God can be hindered if I don’t confess my sin. That is why every day I spend time confessing my sin. (Read 1 John 1:9.) My union with God through Christ and His work is sealed. I’m personally forgiven because of Jesus. My communion, however, can be diminished if I don’t confess my sin.

Don’t’ you find it a joy knowing that nothing you do can separate you from God and His love? No thing, sin, imperfection, or person- not even myself- can separate us from God’s love! We’ll never earn it or be worthy of it, and we’ll never stop needing it.

The wonder of the cross is the mystery of God’s mercy and grace poured out on you and me every day.

Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. I want to leave a positive mark on this world when I leave it. I believe you do too. How do you leave a legacy that lives on after you die? Come this Sunday and discover as we continue our series on Adventure: How to Make Life Thrilling Again.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Keeping the Momentum

Did you know 85% of churches are plateaued or declining? Churches that were once flourishing aren’t now. The question is why? How does a church lose its momentum? How can we keep this from happening at First Free?

Here are 5 things that cause the church to lose momentum. Would you take the time to evaluate these things relative to First Free? If you’re willing to share, I would enjoy hearing your findings.
1.        The vision is unclear. Slowly and quietly, a church forgets why it is doing what it is doing. Can you state First Free’s vision and mission? Do you know why we do what we do? Do you know why we do it the way we do it? If not, ask someone who knows.
2.       Gravitational pull takes over. The gravitational pull in churches is always inward. A church will tend to design its services, ministries, and programs for those who currently attend rather than for those that aren’t yet convinced. Does First Free struggle with gravitational pull? Do we think more of the insiders or more of the people we are trying to reach?
3.       Energy and enthusiasm decrease. When we forget why we do what we do, we eventually lose our passion. Do we spur each other on to love and good deeds? How would you measure First Free's passion for the lost people?
4.       Two front doors are neglected. Today, people check out a church on the website before attending the service. Is our web presence desirable for someone searching? Does it convey a positive, hopeful, first impression? The second front door is the service itself. To maximize the hopes that more people might give Jesus and the church one more shot, is our service conducive to the people we want to reach?
5.        The leader stops growing. A congregation never grows beyond the growth of its leader. The number one mistake pastors make is isolation. Praise God the church allows me a coach to help me continue growing.

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott
P.S. Don’t forget it’s Invite a Friend Day at First Free this Sunday! Any friend you bring will identify with and appreciate our new series: Adventure: Making Life Thrilling Again. See you at 9:15 and 11:00 for the start of an adventure!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Letting Go of Lonliness

Last week I spoke with several people who had one thing in common: loneliness. Each person had their own reason for the loneliness. Loneliness can result from the death of a spouse, feeling like you have no friends, or comparing yourself to other people who don’t appear to be lonely.

Sometimes loneliness has to do with the season of the year. Holidays, while enjoyable for so many, are a time of painful memories, depression, and loneliness to others. At times we choose to isolate ourselves from others, or we may face loneliness through no fault of our own. Whatever the reason, at some time or another we all will experience some level of loneliness.

So, how do you deal with it or better yet- how do you let go of it? Here are some suggestions:
1.        Utilize your time well. Make the most of what you’ve got. Think of creative ways to take advantage of the situation. Be a good steward of the time you spend alone. ‘When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.’ We tend to become discouraged and bored if we don’t use time in a purposeful way.
2.       Minimize the hurt. Don’t ignore it, but don’t rehearse it either. Deal with your hurt in bold and honest ways and shift your focus to helping and serving others.
3.       Recognize God’s presence. There is no place that you are that God is not. (Read Psalm 139.) Jesus said, ‘I am with you always. I will never leave you or forsake you.’ God’s presence is with you in the loneliness.
4.       Emphasize the needs of others. Focus outwardly. Get your eyes off yourself. Love is the antidote to loneliness. Serving and helping others has a way of putting everything in perspective. Consider joining First Free’s Day of Service on April 29th; for more information and to sign-up visit: http://firstfreelincoln.org/day-of-service/  
Blessings,
Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. Do you feel like you’ve done something that can’t be forgiven? Does your past have a hold on you? Have you thought, ‘How can I forgive myself?’ If you have ever struggled with these questions, you won’t want to miss this week’s sermon “Finished!” Join me and bring a friend at 9:15 or 11:00 am on Sunday to experience God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Take a Personal Inventory

Every once in a while, I like to take an inventory of my life. I started doing this years ago when I was in youth ministry. I often quoted to the students Luke 2:52 ‘Jesus grew in wisdom (mental) and in stature (physical) and in favor with God (spiritual) and all the people (social).’ This is called the balanced life. Alongside of these four parts- mental, physical, spiritual, and social- I add the emotional part of life as well.

I would then challenge myself, as well as the students, to take a personal checkup of these things by asking 5 questions:
1.        Mental: Am I mentally sharper than I was a year ago? If not, what am I going to do about the regression?
2.       Physical: Do I frequently complain of a lack of energy?  Why (maybe poor diet, lack of sleep, exercise, or activity)?
3.       Spiritual: Am I regularly spending time talking to God and reading His Word?
4.       Social: Who can I count on as a genuine friend? Who can count on me?
5.        Emotional: Do I worry a lot, am I moody or easily depressed? If so, what am I going to do about it?
The second thing I do in the personal evaluation is write down a plan of action in the areas where I believe I’m not measuring up. A life of balance is marked by good habits. The plan should reflect successful habits in all areas of one’s life. For example, if I have a lack of energy, I put it in my plan to exercise regularly, eat healthy, and make sure I’m out of bed at an early hour.

The third thing I do is make sure my relationship with God is central to my life. Why? Because I don’t, nor do you, have the power to create a balanced life on my own. We need God’s help. When we put Christ at the center of our lives, the power that comes through Him flows to every part of our lives. This gives us balance. That’s why the Bible says, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…’ (Matthew 6:33.)

If it has been a while since you’ve done an inventory about your life, do one today. I try to do this at least 4 times a year. Try it- you’ll like it.

Blessings,


Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. What comes to mind when you read the word “substitute”? Maybe the first word you think of is “fake” or “Second-string”. But what if God’s gift of a substitute is the better than the original thing? Join us Sunday at 9:15 or 11:00 AM to find out more.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Willing Heart

Will you join me in becoming more effective at reaching the lost in your neighborhood, work place, school, or sphere of influence? Honestly, it doesn’t involve much more than a willing heart. Let me share with you three practices that will help you and me reach the lost.

First, consideration. You cannot connect with people you are not considering. Reaching your lost friends, co-workers, and neighbors begins with passion. Passion drives practices. Are you passionate about those around you who are far from God? Your heart must break for what breaks the heart of God- and God’s heart breaks for people far from Him. I have started to pray daily for my lost neighbors. I ask God to break my heart for those who are far from Him.

Second, accommodation. I think of ways that they can feel comfortable with me to build trust: watch their home when they are away and pick up mail, loan tools for one of their projects, help them with the projects, or take interest in their hobbies. (One of my neighbors loves to look through his telescope. Late at night, I go out when he’s looking and ask if I can take a peek.) Everything I do at home makes me ask: How can I do this to involve a contact with a neighbor (March Madness games, yard work ideas, and other common interests)?

Third, invitation. 70% of people invited to church by a friend will attend. The question we need to ask ourselves is ‘Why aren’t I inviting people?’ Sadly, many would answer that question this way, ‘I don’t feel my church would be a great experience for my lost friends.’

I want to assure you that at First Free, we are committed to making our services encouraging, relevant, and worshipful. Hopefully you are so proud of First Free that you want to invite friends and neighbors to give them an opportunity to experience God.

The thing that helps accepting invitations to church are your invitations to other things in your life like BBQ’s at your house or going to other activities together.

We can all use these three practices: consideration, accommodation, and invitation. Join me so we can have a powerful recipe to reach the unchurched in our city.

Blessings,
Pastor Mark "The Bru" Brunott


P.S. Do you feel the need to be forgiven? Have you ever thought to yourself, ‘God could never forgive me for that?’ Do you feel like you need to forgive someone who wronged you? This Sunday, we will begin preparing ourselves for Easter, beginning with the greatest price paid in order that I might experience forgiveness. See you at 9:15 or 11:00- invite a friend to join you.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Tip of the Iceberg

Did you know that 7/8ths of an iceberg is below the water line? In other words, the part that you see is the smallest amount of the total mass. We have the expression, ‘the tip of the iceberg’ used to refer to a situation in which you or someone else is seeing only a small part of what is really a much bigger condition. The phrase usually has a negative meaning to it- referring to a difficult situation. I’m using it positively in order to remind you of 20 things that are true about you and me as believers in Christ. These 20 things are just the tip of the iceberg. Read them and look up each scripture.
1.        All my sins are forgiven; past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14).
2.       I am a child of God (John 1:12; Romans 8:15).
3.       I have eternal life (John 5:24).
4.       I am delivered from darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13)
5.        Christ dwells in me (Colossians 1:27; Revelation 3:20).
6.       I am a new person (2 Corinthians 5:21).
7.        I was declared righteous (justified) by God (2 Corinthians 5:20).
8.       I have a relationship with God, and love is the foundation (1 John 4:9-11).
9.       I am accepted by God (Colossians 1:19-22).
10.     I am holy in God’s eyes (Colossians 3:12).
11.      I have a mission from God to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).
12.     I am a light in a dark world. (Matthew 5:14).
13.     I am part of an overwhelming victory (Romans 8:37).
14.     God makes me complete (Colossians 2:10).
15.     I am an heir to God’s glory (Romans 8:17).
16.     I am permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
17.     I am part of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13).
18.     I have a special gift to employ in serving the Body of Christ (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4).
19.     I have an inheritance that cannot fade away (1 Peter 1:3-5).
20.    I am free, no longer a slave to sin (Galatians 5:1).
The most encouraging part about this list is that it goes on and on. When it comes to how God has completely transformed lives, this is only the ‘tip of the iceberg.’ The next time you are discouraged or overwhelmed, embrace who you are in Christ. Go back to the basics, the beginning of what happened to you when you came to trust in Christ. Understanding your true identity will bring you the encouragement you need.

Let's Be Engaging!

Would you be willing to be 100% honest with yourself and your answers to the following questions?
  • Do I love lost people and want them to enter a life-giving relationship with Jesus?
  • What evidence do I see that affirms or refutes my answer to the first question?
Did you answer honestly? Are you okay with your answers? Why or why not? A recent report from Pew Research Center concluded that Evangelical Christians do not seem to be in relationship with lost people. If our mission is to introduce people to Jesus, transform them through the truth of the Bible, the one thing that should not be taken for granted is engaging with them. Yet, that seems to be precisely what we are doing. Most of us are cloistered away in a ‘Holy Huddle’ or ‘Christian Clique’ that there is very little engagement with the lost.

I am praying and hoping that you and I, as Christians, will be heartbroken over people’s lost-ness. That we would have the courage to speak favorably about Jesus in public. That we would NOT be like those in John 7:13, ‘No one had the courage to speak favorable about Jesus in public.’ Rather, have the resolve of the Apostle Paul ‘one night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent” (Acts 18:9).

There is a singular truth that must be championed again and again and again: lost people matter to God, therefore they should matter to us. The Bible makes it clear that the way someone far from God draws close to God is if someone close to God goes far to reach them (see Romans 10:14-15).

Let’s get engaged with the people who are lost. Let’s love them, engage them, and share Christ with them. The rewards of engagement, standing courageously for the truth, speaking boldly of your faith will last forever. Hebrews 10:35 says, ‘Do not lose your courage, then, because it brings with it great reward.’

Monday, March 6, 2017

Their Eyes, Not Our Eyes

As I think of First Free and reaching those who are exploring the claims of Christianity, I realize the one we need to reach have no church background or even any church memory. They don’t think about church in any form or fashion. Which means we need to change how we think about church and ministry.

Imagine a scale where one end is what we prefer and what we are used to and someone’s eternal destiny lies on the other end. With that perspective, “what we prefer” is really irrelevant. What price should you and I, as Christ followers, be willing to pay so those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus can have one?

The correct answer ought to be, ‘whatever price is required.’ In practical terms, what lost people need is more important than what you and I need. For us, what we do on a Sunday is just a matter of personal preference. For them, their eternal destiny hangs in the balance. So when I have to weigh the importance of issues like service times, musical styles, d├ęcor, how we greet, or sermon titles against someone’s eternal destiny on any given Sunday, it’s really not much of a debate. Love forces us to put others’ needs above our own personal preferences.

James Emery White’s Church & Culture blog this week said:
“not every guest who ventures to visit your church is created equal. On the broadest level, there are churched guests and unchurched guests. By churched, I mean they have a church background, are relatively comfortable and familiar with the church world, and are there as a consumer. The unchurched do not have a church background, are not comfortable or familiar with church world, and are there (at best) as an explorer.”

What I get from this is that we want anyone to feel welcomed, but we want to work harder at reaching explorers. What difference does this make? Quite a bit.

Consider one of the most commonly suggested steps to making a first time guest feel welcomed: designated parking. This can be done in a variety of ways. Using signage marked ‘guests’ or ‘VIPs’ or turning on lights that simply direct first-time guests toward a designated parking area where they find volunteers who greet them, offer first-time guest materials, and even escort them into the church and through any children ministry registration needs they might have.

It sounds impressive. It looks impressive. But who wants this kind of treatment? Only “churched” people love that kind of welcome, recognition, guest parking. The typical first-time unchurched guest wants anything but recognition. They don’t want to be singled-out, targeted, or asked to do anything. They don’t even want to take advantage of putting their child in our children’s ministry. At least, not at first.

What we are trying to do is design our guest experience through the lens of an explorer. We want to put ourselves in their shoes, or at least try to. This is hard to do because we are conditioned to see church through our eyes, not their eyes. Let’s strive to do what we can to reach those whose eternity hangs in the balance.
Mark "the Bru" Brunott