Post Written by Chris Cahall, Pastor
Relevance has been a huge buzzword for the church over the past several years. The line of thinking is that the traditional way of "doing church" was failing to connect with the general public on a variety of levels and a considerable disconnect began to take place. Efforts were then made to start "doing church" differently which ranged from designing a church building not in the traditional cathedral-style but in a more multi-purpose (gymnasium) type of building. Music has changed, mixing in audio/visual elements such as Powerpoint on the screens, the use of drama, words to the songs on the screen rather than hymnals, "casual Sunday" dress codes, lights, stage decor and even the use of smoke/fog to list just a few of the new-age differences.
For the record, I am in favor of much of this. The Vineyard practically wrote the book on several of these elements from launching the contemporary Christian music/worship era, wearing shorts, flip flops & Hawaiian shirts back in the day to holding worship services in warehouses and storefronts rather than traditional sanctuaries. With all of that said, I have been concerned that instead of relevance simply being an important issue for church leadership to consider it has instead become preeminent.
Jesus said in Luke 4: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 5.16-21
This is one of my most favorite passages as Jesus is essentially announcing the Kingdom here and I love the picture He creates. My concern is that, in an effort to make sure we have good sound, lights, graphics, printing, an inviting atmosphere, etc, that we might have inadvertently forgotten the message that Jesus saves, heals, restores, delivers, gives hope to the hopeless... is actually what's preeminent (superior, supreme, of most importance for those in Michigan reading this).
The good news is that we don't have to choose to only do one or the other, we can be a "both/and community" to borrow the phrase from Rich Nathan. Rich uses the phrase "both/and" all the time. It means we don't have to choose between relevance (good light, sound, musicians, decor...) or a solid message, we could and should do both.
To take it a step further, even the message isn't enough (let me explain before hurling insults). In the passage above, Jesus merely made his message known and as a result, few believed him. In fact they tried to throw him off of a cliff, but we don't have to read much further before we see where an audience was amazed by his teaching because it had authority and he demonstrated that authority by delivering a man who was oppressed.
The truth is that Jesus didn't just proclaim the Kingdom (talked a good game) but he demonstrated it as well. My prayer is that we, as leaders within the church (not just pastors & paid staff by the way), would be about the proclamation AND demonstration of the Good News of the Kingdom. Lights, sound, stage decor and quality music/ musicians, video, etc, are all great, they really are, but nothing will ever be more relevant to an individual or a community than helping those who are poor, giving sight to those who are blind and setting free those who are imprisoned and bound.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this so feel free to share, comment or ask questions!
Post Written by Chris Cahall, Pastor
One of the things I've been trying to impress on the people in our church fellowship over the last several months is to read the scriptures, the Old Testament in particular, with what I call "Jesus Goggles". One of my pet peeves (and I have many) is to hear people talk, post, tweet scriptures and Bible verses regarding sin, condemnation, judgement, wrath, deliverance, provision... as if it's something we should be wary of or begging God for when in actuality it has already been fulfilled in Christ. For example, when we read a scripture regarding judgement or wrath, we must always read it in light of how Jesus bore the judgement and wrath of God on our behalf on the cross at Calvary.
Another example of something I hear prayed or even sung is "oh that you would rend the heavens and come down" from Isaiah 64:1 and while that's an "okay" prayer, I guess, I can't help but think, didn't He already do that? Mark 1:10 tells us "As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove." Here we see that Heaven itself was opened when Jesus came and inaugurated His Kingdom movement & through that same Holy Spirit those of us who are in Christ possess a mandate, an assignment to continue in that vain.
We see in Matthew 28 that as a result of the resurrection there was a violent earthquake and an angel came down from Heaven (verse 2, see also Genesis 28). Later in that chapter Jesus tells us that He possesses ALL power & ALL authority in HEAVEN AND EARTH and releases us to do the stuff of the Kingdom in His name and in His authority. So why do we stand around asking for an "open" window or for an assignment or for authority? The window has been opened, the assignment has been given & the authority granted already. Was the window closed; the assignment and authority withdrawn? Hardly. Through the indwelling & leading of the Holy Spirit, the authority, reach and impact only increases.
Is it wrong to ask God to open the heavens? Not exactly. I would acknowledge that things such as worship, intercession, faith, love and unity within the body would absolutely influence the "openness" but that has less to do with whether the heavens are open and much more to do with the degree to which it's opened.
We had a group of teens from our church here in St. Pete and from a few other Vineyard churches from Miami & Augusta, Georgia gather here in St. Pete to do Kingdom ministry. On one particular day the leaders simply turned the teens loose on a mall in Tampa, encouraging them to be led of the Holy Spirit & only do what they felt led of the Holy Spirit to do. As a result of some good old fashioned boldness and obedience they saw (in just a little over an hour) people encouraged, bodily healing, marriages restored, people encouraged in their faith and a host of other things. I think too often we stand around waiting for some sort of spiritual "bat signal" telling us there's a need or signaling to us that it's ok to step out when I think what the scriptures indicate is that we are in a perpetual "open season" to bring the Kingdom and touch lives around us.
Post Written by Chris Cahall, Pastor
We are continuing to look into the "may your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven" concept. I mentioned in last week's blog that poor or misguided theology can often times attribute to overemphasizing some things, while often times looking past the more important things. Have you ever heard the phrase "he or she is so heavenly-minded that they're no Earthly good?" I actually love that phrase & have used it often but the reality is that if one's thoughts are truly heavenly then they will be by (removed: wilaunt) their very nature, useful to someone or something on Earth. Jesus is our greatest example of this when he said things like: "if you've seen me, you've seen the Father (who is in Heaven)" or "I only do what I see my Heavenly Father doing".
It's amazing how we the church, the very body of Christ, can justify our judging and labeling of others. When did we become so self-righteous? We can justify it all we want but the world has taken notice and have chosen to spend their time on boating or playing golf or simply reading the Sunday morning newspaper instead of actually participating in weekend worship service with other believers. In fact, we live in one of the least "churched" cities in the entire US (50th out of 51, just ahead of Portland, Oregon). There might be many reasons for this (sunshine, boating, fishing, beaches...) but one major reason might be our refusal to give people room and accept them where they are without pouncing on them with judgement or correction.
Look at a parable of Jesus in Mathew 21:
‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ "‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go....Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
I find it interesting that Jesus does not portray the Father as someone who gets upset at the one who refused the invitation. He doesn't lecture him, try to intimidate him with fear or threats but rather keeps the offer on the table. The text says that "later" he changed his mind but it doesn't say how much later. Was it 15 minutes, several days or perhaps even years? Now I'm not sure why anyone would wait for even a second if the God of the universe is giving you a personal invitation and I do acknowledge that there is some inherent danger in doing so, but I understand as we can be anything from stubborn, broken, deceived... and probably all of the above. I am thrilled that God is patient and allows us to "reconsider" His offer. So if that's the heart of the Father who is in Heaven, may those of us down here on Earth model that.
May our churches in this city and across the nation be welcoming of the "I-will-notters", the doubters and skeptics, providing them the room necessary for the invitation of the Father to sink in before being chased off by self-righteousness, judgmental & unloving attitudes & behavior. May we act here on earth the way Jesus did and "be" as our Father is in Heaven.
Post Written by Chris Cahall, Pastor
So, I've been preaching a sermon series entitled "as it is in heaven" from a phrase Jesus used in his sermon on the Mount. I am still amazed and saddened that so many ministries, pastors, Bible teachers, denominations... refuse to make the Kingdom of God their theological &/or philisophical foundation. From what I can tell it is one of the very few things that is consistent from Genesis to Revelation not to mention the fact that it's pretty clear that it was the center of both Jesus' & Paul's ministry.
One major misunderstanding about the Kingdom in the Scriptures is that Matthew uses the phrase Kingdom of heaven whereas Luke uses the phrase Kingdom of God. Some have mistaken that to mean sometimes Jesus is referring to an earthly kingdom whereas other times he's referring to heaven itself. The only thing that's going on here is that Matthew was addressing a Jewish audience that valued the use of synonyms for the name of God so as to not use HIs name casually. Luke was addressing a Gentile audience where using such a synonym would only cause confusion.
In using the phrase "as it is in heaven", Jesus is in a sense saying: "whatever differences there are between what's going on in heaven and what is taking place down here on earth, may those differences be minimized and may my rule and reign be maximized."
I intend on sharing in my next few blogs some specific ways where we as the church can be more proactive in establishing some heavenly principles down here in this broken place that we live. In the meantime, I am interested to know a few things that relate to each of you personally.
I'd love to use the comments here to create dialog with each of you and connect it directly with the sermon this week.