Pastor Kirk

Notes from Scio Community Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Always Remember, Family rules, 1 March 2015

Big Idea: A healthy church family remembers its history…and His story.

Introduction

Every year Oxford University Press, publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary, announces a “word of the year.” For example, in 2005 it was “podcast.” 2009’s word was “unfriend.” The 2013 word of the year was “selfie.”

Have you ever taken a selfie? Why?

We take pictures for one primary reason—to capture a moment and remember an event. I remember when my dad borrowed the first Sony video camera from a friend. We saw ourselves in black and white on our television and would later fill literally hundreds of videotapes (remember those?) with events recorded for future viewing. In fact, it’s not uncommon when we visit my mom to see our younger selves on her TV!

Imagine a world without video or even photography. How would we record an event? Primal cultures often drew pictures or used hieroglyphics. The most common tool we have is letters and books. Folk songs and folk tales have been popular oral traditions of remembering the past.

Know Thyself
Be Real
Welcome Strangers
Resolve Conflict
Serve Together
Celebrate Diversity
Make Disciples

Today’s rule is “always remember.”

Always remember. Like the others, it’s simple. Two words. Always remember. The opposite would be…never forget!

Why do remember…or why do we forget?

There’s a prominent subject in school dedicate to remembrance: history.

Do you like history?

Here are a few famous history quotes:

“The more you know of you history, the more liberated you are.” - Maya Angelou

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” - Edmund Burke

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” - Winston Churchill

Of course no quotes are more important than those from God. Did you know God remembers? “Of course,” you say, “He never forgets.” In the ninth chapter of Genesis he speaks to Noah following the flood.

I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:15-16)

Often the English word “remember” is a command to us. Why? Because we forget!

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20:8)

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. (Deuteronomy 5:15a)

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, (1 Chronicles 16:12)

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. (Psalm 77:11)

This morning, family, there are three things I want us to always remember.

Scio’s History

First, our church family history. We began as the Ypsilanti Gospel Tabernacle in 1934. You may recall we celebrated our 80th anniversary last year.

The name was changed to the Alliance Bible Fellowship in 1984 when it moved to Carpenter School in Ann Arbor.

In 1988, this building was completed and our family became known as Scio Community Church.

(If the westward migration continues, we’ll eventually be called the Chicago Alliance Church!).

Many great pastors have guided our family over these 81 years and I’m humbled to serve today.

As we did last year, we celebrate God’s faithfulness over more than eight decades. A lot has changed since 1934, but our family remains together following Jesus.

The Alliance

Our church’s history doesn’t actually begin in Ypsilanti in 1934, but rather in New York City in the late 1800’s with a Canadian named A.B. Simpson. He established the New York Gospel Tabernacle “to bring likeminded people together into an organization that could facilitate outreach ministries.” This included the first team of missionaries to the Congo in 1994. Although the Christian & Missionary Alliance did not officially become a denomination until 1974, mission has literally been our middle name. We have brothers and sisters in 70 countries planing churches, training national church leaders, providing relief and development assistance, medical and dental care, and microenterprise projects. We have nearly 2000 churches in the USA, about 600 of which are intercultural. Globally, there are over 3 million people in our Alliance family

The Church

The third thing I want us to remember is the Church of Jesus Christ. It began about two thousand years ago from Jewish roots dating back to a covenant made between God and Abraham.

Theologian N.T. Wright views the Bible as a 5 Act Play.

Act 1: creation
Acts 2: the Fall
Act 3: Israel
Act 4: Jesus
Act 5: New Testament and the people of God (the Church)

Some have suggested we are in Act 6, with Act 7 being the new heaven and new earth mentioned in Revelation.

If indeed there are seven acts, Jesus is at the center in Act 4. His life, death and resurrection were not intended to begin a new religion, but rather pave the way for us to reconcile with our heavenly Father, discover what it means to be truly human, and experience the kingdom of God.

Perhaps you’ve looked at our
list of family rules and thought we should include “love God” or “love others,” but those two basic commands of Jesus have been interwoven throughout, and today we remember our Messiah who faithfully modeled those two simple yet challenging commands.

Communion

For centuries our brothers and sisters have remembered Jesus through an act known as the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, or communion. It’s obedience to a command of Jesus.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Sometimes we are tempted to go through the motions, eating a tiny cracker and drinking a taste of grape juice. The context was actually supper. It was a meal. Perhaps we should do communion during our potlucks.

Paul continues to the people of Corinth

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

Paul adds…

That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:30-32)

So What?

Throughout the scriptures we are told by God to remember. Without understanding the past we will struggle to understand the present and we will surely repeat mistakes.

Some want to live in the past. This is extremely dangerous. The rear view mirror helps us see where we’ve been and how we’ve got here, but if we stare too long in the rear view mirror we’ll have a tragic future!

We must remember the past. We can even celebrate the past. But we must never live in the past. God is always doing a new thing.

You have heard these things; look at them all.
Will you not admit them?
“From now on I will tell you of new things,
of hidden things unknown to you. (Isaiah 48:6)

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17)

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22)

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. (Luke 5:37-38)

We are in Act 6 of the 7 act play God is producing. Many fear the future, but I’ve got great news for you: Jesus is already there! He’s in 2016. He’s in 2017. He’s in 3017! Every generation experiences things better and worse than previous generations, but God is with us…always. He is gradually unveiling His plans for humanity that will eventually lead to a new heaven and a new earth—an eternity with Him! I’ve read the end of the book.
The best is yet to come!

In the meantime, let’s remember the past, fully embrace the present, and co-create the future with Jesus until He returns.

Conclusion

Selfies are fun ways to capture ourselves in various places. Perhaps even better than a selfie is a group photo that shows us with family, in community. We were created for relationships—with God and others—and often our best memories come from shared experiences with others.

One More Thing

One more thing…join the family! You know our history. You know our mission. You know our rules. All that’s left is for you to briefly share your story with the elders.

Some people have told me they don’t need a piece of paper in order to be married, but a marriage certificate has meaning. It formally declares one’s commitment to another.

Church membership is similar. Perhaps you’ve thought, “This is my family, but why do I need to become a member?” Unlike American Express, membership is not loaded with privileges, but it does make a statement to the rest of the family that you’re committed to us. You want to be more than a roommate or spectator.

If you’re not yet a member of Scio, I urge to speak with an elder about formally joining our family. It really matters. Every Sunday is a family reunion, and you’re invited to join our family!

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Make Disciples, Family Rules, 22 February 2015

Big Idea: A healthy church family reproduces by making disciples.

Introduction

I’m not a big fan of hospitals. For years it was because I would routinely pass out in them, even if it was in the gift shop! It’s some psychological thing inherited from my mom! The worst experience occurred on our first Christmas Eve as husband and wife. Heather made hot cider for our family party in our home, poured it into a crystal bowl until it shattered, leaving her screaming with second and third degree burns on her legs. In the ER as I faithfully stood beside my new bride, offering my steady support and encouragement one of the workers yelled, “Get another gurney…for the husband!”

Unfortunately I’ve had a lot of experience in hospitals during our marriage…too much! I feel as if I know every square inch of U-M, St Joe’s, and Cleveland Clinic. Despite my issues with hospitals there’s one place that’s wonderful—the maternity ward!


There are few celebrations like that of a new baby. It’s such a big deal, in fact, that we celebrate the anniversary of their birth each year they are alive—and sometimes even longer! This past week, in fact, I celebrated my birth-day (though the hospital where I was born no longer exists!)!

Imagine a world without maternity wards; a world without babies. It would be quieter, but it would only be a matter of time until the world would experience true and total silence. The survival of our species requires new births…and the maturation of those babies into reproducing adults who co-create more babies.

Believe it or not, this is an alarming issue for some cultures today. We’re all familiar with endangered species in the animal kingdom, often the result of uncontrolled hunting.

In Japan, for instance, there are only 8.07 births per 1000 persons*, a number that is not sustainable, according to the experts. If there are more deaths than births, eventually a culture will cease to exist.

*Note: as a basis of comparision,

Monaco, 6.72 (lowest)
Niger, 46.12 (highest)
USA, 13.42

Couples in the world’s five biggest developed economies — the United States, Japan, Germany, France and Britain — had 350,000 fewer babies in 2012 than in 2008, a drop of nearly 5 percent. The United Nations forecasts that women in those countries will have an average of 1.7 children in their lifetimes. Demographers say the fertility rate needs to reach 2.1 just to keep populations constant.

In Japan, sales of adult diapers will exceed sales of baby diapers this year, according to Euromonitor International, a marketing research firm. In South Korea, where births have fallen 11 percent in a decade, 121 primary schools had no new students last year.
And in China, where the working-age population is set to shrink next year, the government is relaxing a policy that had limited many families to one child. It might not help much. Chinese are choosing to stick to one on their own.

It has been said that the church is one generation away from extinction. What is Scio’s future? What is the future of the Church of Jesus Christ on our planet?

We’re nearing the end of our series
Family Rules, a double entendre. We’ve said

  • know thyself
  • be real
  • welcome strangers
  • resolve conflict
  • serve together
  • celebrate diversity

Today’s rule is make disciples.

Before we look to the future, I want to ask a common question about the present: why are you here?

Why are you here? These were my first words spoken here as your pastor. We need to return to this question from time to time to remember why we do the things we do. What is our mission? What is our purpose?

Does your family have a mission statement? Here’s an example:

Our mission is to be a contagious family of faith, hope, and love.

I recently found a list of “honest” church mission statements. They’re not written anywhere, but they describe why some churches exist.

Our mission is to grow worship service attendance by attracting the “have-it-together”  people in our community who will then invite other “have-it-together” people in our community.

Our mission is to be ready for 1950 in case that decade rolls around again.

Our mission is never-ending, double-digit, transfer growth in our relevant worship services by franchising our church across our region.

Our mission is to be the only genuine church in our city because we don’t need church buildings and refuse to let our children be influenced by the public
school system.


Our mission is to feel good that we are Spirit-filled and to help others feel good through our Spirit-filled worship services where God’s presence feels good.

Our mission is to keep the elders happy, bills paid and staff employed.

Our mission is to have a gospel-centered mission statement that will help a gospel-centered people do anything we want as long as it is gospel-centered.

At Scio, our mission looks a bit different. Quite a bit different!

We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 
• serving our communities
• sharing our story
• sending disciples to bless the nations

so that God is glorified.
This is our family’s mission. It’s why we exist. In many ways it parallels the Christian & Missionary Alliance commitment to be a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Jesus said to love God and love others, the Great Commandment, and arguably the best way to do both is to obey what we call the Great Commission:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

That’s it: love God, love others, go and make disciples, baptizing and teaching them.

Jesus said nothing about building buildings, having potlucks, style of music, wearing robes, reading from the King James Version, or creating a website. Those may be part of the process, but we must never mistaken the process for the purpose.

Love God, love others, go and make disciples. These are commands, not suggestions!

What’s a disciple? Simply, it’s a follower or student of a teacher. It’s an apprentice. A protege.

Parents, this is what you do every day, whether you realize it or not. Children model the behavior of their parents. Decades ago Harry Chapin’s song
Cat’s in the Cradle described this natural process beautifully. The final two lines reflect the father’s observation:

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me, he'd grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.

I believe the vision Jesus had for His followers as He stood on the Mount of Olives outside the gates of Jerusalem was they they would be just like Him…and they would reproduce their lives into others who would become just like them…and the next generation would pass the baton to the next and the next.

One of my favorite verses in the entire Bible is 2 Timothy 2:2 (it’s also a fun address!). Paul writes to His disciple, Timothy, and says

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

Notice there are four generations in this one verse:

  • Paul
  • Timothy
  • reliable people
  • others

I stand before you as Mr. Schneemann because of my dad, Mr. Schneemann, and his dad, Mr. Schneemann, and his dad, Mr. Schneemann who came to the USA on a boat from Europe.

I stand before you as a disciple of my dad who was a disciple of his dad who was a disciple of his dad (all men of faith) who encountered a disciple of Jesus as a bouncer in a bar.

Do you see how it works? Here’s the thing: we can be passive or intentional. We can live like everyone else and train future generations to live like everyone else or we can buck the status quo, live radical lives like Jesus—not without great cost and possibly our very lives—and watch His mission continue far beyond us.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the legacy I want to leave. I want my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren—both biologically and spiritually—to be known as men and women of faith, hope and love; men and women filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I want people to confuse my offspring with Jesus!

“Great,” you say, “but how?”

I’m so glad you asked!

First and foremost, before we can make disciples we must become disciples ourselves. We can teach what we know but we reproduce who we are.

All of us have mentors. There are people who have influenced us. This includes family, obviously, but authors, teachers, and friends. Some may have been carefully chosen while others may have somewhat randomly entered our lives.

I remember my dad asking me, once, who was mentoring me. Who’s disciple are you?

Since they were little, I’ve told my kids, “You are your friends.” Choose wisely.

Last summer I was working with our son and he said, “Dad, I love tattoos…but I don’t know why.” I asked if any of his friends had any tattoos. He said, “All of them.” Boom!

Again, you have subconscious mentors like friends or family members. You also have the opportunity to consciously choose mentors or teachers or disciplers to follow. They may be distant mentors like A.W. Tozer or A.B. Simpson, dead men who were prolific in their writing, speaking, and influence. You might approach someone and say, “I admire you and your life. Would you be willing to invest in mine?”

Perhaps the greatest discipler among our Scio family has been Mary Aleksoff. Her life has influenced so many, particularly women. In some instances she may have approached younger women and in others perhaps younger women sought her out. Regardless, she has been reproducing her Jesus-like self in so many.

Keep in mind she is not a perfect example but a living example.

Paul said to the people of Corinth simply:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Who is discipling you? Who would you like to disciple you? Ask them! Many of you are discipled each week by your Life Group leader. Our Life Group leaders are some of the most important people at Scio as we seek to not only make disciples but then send them to bless the nations.

Who are you discipling? “I can’t disciple!” you might say. Yes you can…and you do. People are watching you, whether you realize it or not. College students, there are high schools who look up to you. High schoolers, there are middle school students who model your behavior, faith, and attitudes.

You don’t have to be a perfect example, just a living example.

In fact, mentoring is about what you offer someone through your wisdom and experience. Discipleship is about what Jesus can offer someone through His wisdom and presence. We are not called to produce living water so much as be conduits through which the power of God can flow to others. We are not the baton, but rather we carry the baton of faith, so to speak, and pass it on to others.

For the past several years I have invited young men into a discipleship relationship. Like Jesus, I chose them after seeing potential for them to become reproducing disciples. I have given them access to my life, we meet together as a group for a Huddle, and seek ways we can live out the mission of Scio…the mission of Jesus. They are all challenged to prepare to launch their own Huddle soon. Mike Breen and 3D Movements have created some of the best discipleship tools I’ve ever seen. Mike’s book
Building A Discipling Culture is recommended reading for anyone seeking to become and make disciples.

This is not something I do as a pastor or professional Christian. It’s something we are all called to do as disciples—reproduce! Many of the most influential disciplers in my life were not pastors. They simply lived lives worth following. Again, some were formal and some I’ve never met because they’re distant or dead.

Discipleship is not easy. It requires an investment of our very lives.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? (Luke 9:23-25)

As disciples of Jesus, our lives do not belong to us. They belong to Him!

Two More Things

The command of Jesus is to make disciples of all nations. This follows last week’s theme of celebrate diversity. It beautifully fits our county where there are people living in our community from more than 100 nations. It also reinforces one of the purposes of The Santiago Experience. We are going to the Dominican Republic to make disciples of not only USAmericans but also Dominicans. Whether it’s befriending someone in your neighborhood, school or workplace or connecting with someone from another country online or getting your passport stamped we are called to make disciples of all nations.

Ultimately we are not merely disciples of Paul or Tozer or Simpson or Mary Aleksoff…we are to be disciples of Jesus. It simply helps to see “Jesus with skin on” and see what it really looks like to follow Christ in our day. We must spend time with disciplers, but also with Jesus. If we are to love and follow King Jesus we must spend time with Him, we must study His teachings, we must follow His example, we must listen and learn through prayer and solitude.

Conclusion

I have a dream. Yes, I have many, but I have a dream that Scio would be a family known for making disciples. That’s a huge part of why we exist.

Our Scio nursery has been empty for quite some time. We’ve been praying that it would be filled and later this year there will be at least one or two babies, which is exciting! Babies are exciting! They can be loud and messy but very exciting! Of course the excitement of babies is not merely the present but the future potential they embody.

In the same way I’m praying for the spiritual nursery of Scio to filled. I am praying that our baptistry is filled throughout this year as we join with the angels in rejoicing when souls are saved. Of course that’s not the end of the journey but merely an important step in the process of discipleship. If you’ve been baptized, you have a God-given responsibility and privilege to help others experience Jesus, surrender to Him, and make their faith public…and then grow and help others to do the same.

Who is discipling you?
Who are you discipling?

It’s the circle of life! It’s why we exist. It’s God’s mission for every man, woman and child…and it’s a joy to play a small role in His mission.

To God be the glory for the great things He has done!!!

LORD, may Your Kingdom come and Your will be done in Scio, in Ann Arbor, in southeastern Michigan, on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Celebrate Diversity, Family Rules, 15 February 2015

Big Idea: A healthy church family celebrates its diversity and respects each member.

I Want To Be A Clone by Steve Taylor

The world was introduced to Steve Taylor with this song in 1983.

Imagine if we were all clones. We all looked the same. We all believed the same. We all acted the same. We all ate the same food, wore the same clothes, and cheered for the same sports teams.

Boring!

I have a confession to make: I’m a variety junkie. My favorite restaurant is the one I’ve never visited. I hate to order the same thing twice off any menu. I love different cultures. My music library is as eclectic as any I know. Strange and unusual people fascinate me (takes one to know one!). I’m eager to learn about other worldviews and traditions.

Here’s the irony: my favorite flavor of ice cream is vanilla (though it must be good, with vanilla bean specks!).

We’re in the middle of a series entitled
Family Rules, a double entendre. This is not merely a series about church in general, but Scio Community Church in particular. In previous weeks we’ve said

Know thyself
Be real
Resolve conflict
Serve together

Today’s rule is Celebrate diversity.

I love variety. God loves variety. Let me offer you a sneak preview of coming attractions. Listen to John’s Revelation of future worship:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)

Can you imagine?

Every nation. God bless America…and Iraq…and North Korea…and every nation!
Every tribe.
God bless Wolverines…and Spartans…and yes, even Buckeyes!
Every people.
God bless whites…and blacks…and browns…and every race!
Every language.
God bless those who speak English…and Hebrew…and Arabic…

What a picture. But look around. Does Scio look like this vision? Kind of!

Creation

God loves diversity. Obviously! How many different animals, varieties of trees, snowflakes, and stars exist? Perhaps the single greatest proof of God’s love for diversity occurred when He created woman from man.

Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:22-23)

He surely saw she was different, but proceeded to experience those differences every day that followed. Could there be a greater difference between men and women?!

One of our greatest senses is the sense of sight. We see things, including people. As we take in information, we make assessments. This allows us to instinctively avoid touches a pot with bubbling liquid inside. It alerts us to wear extra clothing when we observe blizzard conditions out the window.

There’s an old expression that you can’t judge a book by its cover…but we do!
Click here!

Books are one thing, but we instinctively judge people based upon their appearances, too.

I have a friend who is a multi-millionaire after selling his business. He loves to walk into a car dealership with cash to buy a car and see how long it takes the salespeople to pay attention to this scruffy man who looks like he just left the farm!

We instinctively judge people based upon their appearance. In the 1980’s there was a craze to “dress for success.”

Like it or not, we are all prejudice. We pre-judge based upon the information we have, and often we have very little. People watching can be fascinating, if not terribly deceiving. This is a part of the human condition.

God told Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel.

The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (1 Samuel 16:1)

But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” (1 Samuel 16:2)

The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” (1 Samuel 16:3)

Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?” (1 Samuel 16:4)

Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. (1 Samuel 16:5)

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed stands here before the LORD.” (1 Samuel 16:6)

Here’s the key verse:

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

A few verses later it says…

Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.” (1 Samuel 16:10)

Much to everyone’s surprise, it was the young shepherd God chose…David.

People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b)

February is
Black History month. I’m grateful for my African-American friends and the countless contributions they and their ancestors make in my life and the lives of all of us, despite horrific persecution. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you surely realize our society has made great progress with regards to civil rights…and yet we have a long way to go. Like MLK, one of my heroes,

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

For followers of Jesus, this should be old news. After all, it was God who created us different. Every man, woman and child has been created in the image of God with dignity, value and worth. Every one. The unborn. The disabled. The aged. The poor. The uneducated. The heterosexual. The homosexual. The transgender. The Muslim. The atheist. The Hindu. Even the Buckeye!

Color Blind?

Some well-meaning people have promoted the idea of color blindness. They claim they are color blind, yet this is problematic for two reasons:

  • It is not realistic. We all see faces.

As we noted earlier, we instinctively have first impressions. First impressions are not sinful. Like temptation, what matters is how we respond. Do we lean into our first impressions or do we challenge the assumptions and consider alternatives.

2. Color blindness strips us of our uniqueness.

I’m glad we’re not all the same! I’m glad you’re different. Sure, sometimes differences can create conflict, but even the tension can be good.

Jew and Gentile

Arguably the greatest tension in our nation’s history has been between blacks and whites. In biblical times, the Jew and Gentile tension as probably even greater. Racism and reverse racism was fierce and omnipresent.

We tend to gloss over mentions of Jew and Gentile as if the references were Chelsea and Dexter or USA and Canada. Paul was radical and offensive to the status quo:

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, (Romans 10:12)

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:13)

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:11)

Notice these are four different letters. His message is consistent. In Christ we are one.

More Than Meets The Eye

Of course diversity is so much more skin deep. In fact, we’re all quite similar physically. We all have two eyes, one mouth, most of us have hair…!!! But even if we all looked exactly the same on the outside, we are all so different on the inside…and those differences can enrich the life of our family.

I have friends who are liberal and conservative politically. I love to listen to their views with an open mind and seek to learn from them.

I have friends who are liberal and conservative theologically. I love to listen to and learn from them, as well.

I have friends who were raised in other cultures with childhoods distinct from mine. I find their stories fascinating and their perspectives refreshing.

I have friends who speak other languages, look different than me, fall into a different socio-economic class and who challenge my assumptions and worldview.

And I’m just referring to Scio!!!

Yes, Scio is a diverse family. We may not be the most thoroughly diverse racially, but we are very different economically, theologically, politically, and in most every conceivable way.

That’s great!!! I’m reminded of a famous statement from 17th century German Lutheran theologian Rupert's Meldenius:

In essentials, unity
In non-essentials, liberty
In all things, charity

We are all different, and we can celebrate our diversity. As Paul wrote,

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:17-20)

I need you and you need me. Together we become a
mosaic…a bunch of broken, diverse pieces of glass through which the light can shine.

So What? How can we celebrate diversity?

  • Acknowledge it. We’re different. Don’t be in denial. It’s not to be tolerated but celebrated.

  • Reach out to those who are different. This requires intentionality. It requires humility. Sit next to someone different on Sunday morning. Eat with someone different at our next potluck. Invite someone different to your home. Grab coffee with someone different. And ask about the differences, whatever they may be.

  • tell me about your childhood?
  • what is the greatest challenge facing our nation?
  • does racism still exist in our country? How do you know?
  • Why might someone choose to vote for _______?
  • what do ___________ need to learn/understand?

Seek to learn and grow. A posture of teachability is vital.

By the way, this will be especially true for those going to the Dominican Republic. Frequently the materially rich have sought to “fix” the materially poor. One’s possessions have no effect on their value and dignity as an image-bearer of Almighty God. Relationships level the playing field between the rich and poor, the educated and the uneducated, the Christian and the non-Christian. Jesus was not only a friend of sinners, He welcomed little children into His presence.

3. Expand your social network. This isn’t necessarily online, but think about your friendships. Do all of your friends look/vote/believe/act like you?

This is one of the challenges of our hyper-customized culture. It’s possible to surround one’s self with people just like themselves, missing the beauty of diversity.

As I have shared previously, I have learned so much from others, specifically followers of Jesus from different traditions. Two of my dearest friends are a Catholic priest, Father Ed, and a Messianic Jewish Rabbi, Allen Singer. The three of us are quite a trio! There’s gotta be a good joke in there somewhere! Yet each of us is preparing to spend eternity together with one another…and with Yeshua, Jesus.

We are all at different places in the spiritual journey, which is great! We need to help one another take the next step.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)

We are all different, yet related by blood…the blood of Jesus.

Conclusion

Human cloning has not yet been achieved—fortunately! It would be tragic…with one exception: Jesus. Scio, as we reflect the diversity of God’s beautiful creation, may we all be like Jesus, the ultimate human, our LORD, and coming King. “Christian” means “little Christ” and I pray that we will all be confused with Jesus as we love God and others every day.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast
here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Serve Together, Family Rules, 08 February 2015

Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to cast a vision for a healthy church family, noting particular strengths and weaknesses of Scio in the process.

Big Idea:
A healthy church family serves together.

Introduction

I’m going to go out on a limb and say something so radical it may cause great shock, so I’m glad you’re sitting down! Are you ready…

Our culture is different than the various cultures of the Bible.

Whoa! So scandalous!

I state the obvious because there are many ways to treat the Bible. An atheist might say it’s a collection of fairy tales (by the way, last week Yahoo News reported newly discovered tablets that they say, “Is a remarkable confirmation of the historical reliability of the Biblical text.”). Some mainline or liberal Christians might say the Bible is a good book with some truth and wisdom. Adherents to Liberation Theology interpret Scripture through the plight of the poor.

The Christian & Missionary Alliance statement on scripture says

The
Old and New Testaments, inerrant as originally given, were verbally inspired by God and are a complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men. They constitute the divine and only rule of Christian faith and practice.

Simply put, the Bible is our authority. It is the only rule of faith and practice for us. But how do we read understand the Bible? In the past I have introduced three steps:

  • Discern what the text originally meant.
  • Discern what the text means for us today.
  • Apply.

Too often people skip the first two steps and, instead, read a verse and try to apply it. God doesn’t change, but culture changes…and Jesus changed many things through His life, death, and resurrection.

Last week Jonathan mentioned the difference between families during biblical days and families today. Joseph Hellerman notes three central social values of the ancient Mediterranean world:

  • In the New Testament world the group took priority over the individual.

The Bible never makes mention of a personal Savior. Community was everything. In many cultures today, it still is, but in order to understand the language of the Bible, it is essential to recognize the group came first, not the individual. In fact people did not make major life decisions on their own. Hellerman writes, “Faced with decisions that people were never meant to make in isolation, we self-destruct emotionally and relationally, we never grow up, and we turn to therapy or medication to prop us up against a world that is just too much for us to handle on our own.” He adds, “The great majority of people on this planet never needed therapy until society began to dump the responsibility for making life's major decisions squarely upon the lonely shoulders of the individual.”

  • In the New Testament world a person’s most important group was his family.

Most of us would agree today, except with so many broken and fragmented families—as well as families that live thousands of miles apart from one another—it’s not uncommon for one’s closest relationships to come from church, work, neighborhoods, schools…or Facebook.

  • In the New Testament world the closest family bond was the bond between siblings.

The closest family tie was not the contractual relationship between husband and wife. It was the blood relationship between siblings. Brother or sister was their most important relationship.

When we speak of family, it’s more than a cute way of talking about one another. It wasn’t a negative term describing dysfunctional relationships. It was the primary language used in the early church to speak of deep commitment to others related by blood…Jesus’ blood.

In
Love in Hard Places, D.A. Carson suggests that ideally the church is not comprised of natural “friends” but rather “natural enemies.”

“What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything of the sort. Christians come together, not because they form a natural collocation, but because they have been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him a common allegiance. In the light of this common allegiance, in light of the fact that they have all been loved by Jesus himself, they commit themselves to doing what he says – and he commands them to love one another. In this light, they are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.”

Family Rules

We’re past the midway point of our series Family Rules. In case you missed some of the rules…

Today we come to one of the most challenging of all for us as a Scio family: serve together.

Serve together. That’s simple, right. In fact, it’s imbedded in our mission statement:

We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 
• serving our communities
• sharing our story
• sending disciples to bless the nations

so that God is glorified.

Serving our communities. I see two great challenges facing us with regard to serving our communities:

1. Serving. Being a servant is not the most popular role in our culture. In fact, it’s probably the least desired title. Servant. It goes against everything within us that yearns for power and prestige. Who wants to be a servant? Evidently Paul. This educated scholar begins the book of Romans writing these words:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— (Romans 1:1)

Evidently Jesus. This is how Paul described Jesus…and instructs others:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7)

The next verse is even more ludicrous!

And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8)

We could spend hours reading verses about serving in the Bible. Most of us know serving is what we’re “supposed” to do, whether we like it or not! We have some fantastic servants in our Scio family. But there’s another issue we face as a family.

2. Serving together. It’s no secret that few of us leave near one another. Geography makes being a family on mission together difficult. Vulnerability require proximity. If we don’t even see each other, it’s hard to imagine serving together, right?

A few years ago I saw a video about a church in Tacoma, Washington. It seized my imagination for a church doing life together as a family on mission.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lc4tsw3kCok&spfreload=10

It’s not always fun and comfortable, but they are living out their faith every day…together. They are serving together. They are eating and loving and growing together. They look to me like the early church, a close-knit, extended family.

They also live near one another. We don’t. For four years I’ve been challenged by this. I’ve prayed and read and conversed and done everything I know to do in order to address this issue of serving together. I’ve come up with a few thoughts.

  • Serve with your Life Group.

When we made The Flip a year ago we wanted to do more than just change the name of Sunday School to Life Groups. We wanted to create small groups that would not only gather for an hour on Sunday but also be given the mandate to serve together monthly. Some Life Groups have been more effective than others, but the mandate remains. Serve together on Sunday. Serve together midweek. Just serve together!

On February 21, our young adult Life Group is going to serve at the Scio Township recycling day from 8 AM to noon. You’re all welcome to join us (just wear warm clothes!). So far it is the only need I’ve been able to extract from the Scio Township office.

Our two midweek Life Groups are uniquely setup to serve together as their gathering are not restricted to an hour on Sunday.

2. Serve with your neighbors.

Gather those that do live nearby, whether they attend Scio or not, and bless the community.

3. Serve with your biological family.

Some of you have a small group living under your roof! Serve together.

4. Serve on Sundays.

One of my desires for Scio is that nobody serves alone. Whether that’s setting up coffee, playing on the music team, ushering, or leading a Life Group, serve with others.

I’m delighted to say even I don’t serve alone. That’s not to say I’m surrounded by people 24/7, but I am not the sole leader, the sole decision-maker, the benevolent dictator of Scio! I am one of eight elders who guide the spiritual direction of Scio under our Senior Pastor, King Jesus. I also serve alongside our five deacons who do so many things behind-the-scenes with everything from facility maintenance and communion preparation to benevolence and potlucks.

In a healthy natural family, the parents usually set the course, prioritizing the health of the family and the needs (and even sometimes wants) of everyone else above their own. That’s what the elders and deacons seek to do, looking out for the best interests of the family.

One of the great things about being a family is we all have different strengths and weaknesses that can complement one another. Paul wrote:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

He then uses one of my favorite metaphors in the entire Bible, the human body.

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. (1 Corinthians 1:12-20)

When we serve together, we not only experience the joy of friendships, we also learn and grow from one another and experience synergy, more together than the sum of the parts. Or to borrow a famous acronym, TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More!

I recently heard someone say
it’s not what you do, it’s who you do it with.

My sister proved this to me when we were children. Our least favorite job every summer was…pulling weeds! We whined and ached and complained about working under the hot sun seemingly every day! One day Tami returned from her friend’s house, clearly delighted about her visit. I asked, “What did you do that was so fun?” She said, “We pulled weeds together!”

As a family, we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We are to serve one another and serve our communities. Of course, serving together means relationships which means the potential for conflict and compromise. That gives us opportunities to become more like Jesus as we listen, humbly submit to one another, and love each other.

So What?

Serve together. I’ve come up with a few thoughts, but I need your help. We need your help! If you’ve got an idea, share it with me. Share it with one of the other elders. Share it on our white board in the hallway. Send me an e-mail and I’ll post it in the
Scio Soul. It’s not enough for us to be a safe, comfy family. We are to be a family on mission, God’s mission to seek and save the lost, to make disciples, and to serve together.

For Further Study

When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus' Vision for Authentic Christian Community by Joseph H. Hellerman

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Welcome Strangers, Family Rules, 25 January 2015

Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to cast a vision for a healthy church family, noting particular strengths and weaknesses of Scio in the process.

Big Idea:
A healthy church family shows hospitality by welcoming strangers.

Introduction

When I was a little boy, one of the commands of my parents was to never talk to strangers. This is certainly good advice for a young child, but it tragically carries over into adulthood.

Since I’ve lived in the midwest my entire life, I don’t know if this is true elsewhere, but I’m always amazed at how people walk past one another on the sidewalk and look down as they approach, as if to either ignore the other human or pretend they are invisible from them. Can we not simply say, “Hi!” as we pass? I do this sometimes when I’m jogging, often startling the person who seems surprised they are recognized. Yes, I talk to strangers…or at least greet them occasionally.

We’re in the middle of a series called “Family Rules,” a double entendre. We began with the admonishment to
know thyself. Last week we talked about how important it is to keep it real…no perfect people allowed (except Jesus!). Today’s rule is welcome strangers.

Think of a time when you were in an unfamiliar place. Maybe you were in another city, state, or even country. It could be a local business or even a home. How did you feel upon entering? What happened when you were noticed?

Being a stranger can be awkward, uncomfortable, and even frightening. Extroverts are perceived to be more calm about interactions with new people, but even they can experience anxiety when they enter a new environment. Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home,” and the further removed we are from those places we know, the more likely we are to be stressed or nervous.

Last fall we did a series entitled
Covenant and Kingdom. The gist of the series was God invites us into a covenant relationship with Him and then challenges us to go and serve in His Kingdom. It began with God inviting Abram—later Abraham—into a covenant relationship that birthed Israel.

At the risk of stating the obvious, our culture is radically different than that of the early church in the New Testament, to say nothing of the Old Testament. Several weeks ago we talked about the birth of Jesus and the search for a place for that event. Hospitality was largely taken for granted.

In the Old Testament, hospitality was more than just a custom. It demonstrated faithfulness to God. In one instance—from a passage we read this week via One Story—Abraham welcomed three special strangers:

The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. (Genesis 18:1-8)

Sure, it was a different culture. There were no Motel 6s, much less Ritz Carltons. Travelers would die without the hospitality of hosts on their journey. In fact, it was a serious offense to not provide for strangers.

No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, not even in the tenth generation. For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt…(Deuteronomy 23:3-4a)

We could talk for hours about hospitality in the Old Testament.

Here are some examples of people welcoming strangers in the Old Testament:

Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18)
Abraham (Genesis 18:3-8)
Lot (Genesis 19:2, 3)
Laban (Genesis 24:31)
Jethro (Exodus 2:20)
Manoah (Judges 13:15)
Samuel (1 Samuel 9:22)
David (2 Samuel 6:19)
Barzillai (2 Samuel 19:32)
Shunammite (2 Kings 4:8)
Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:17)
Job (Job 31:17, 32)

In the New Testament, hospitality remained a priority. Sometimes this involved water for a guest’s feet and oil for their head. It could include a kiss of welcome or food.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13)

Here are some examples of people welcoming strangers in the NewTestament:

Zacchaeus (Luke 19:6)
Samaritans (John 4:40)
Lydia (Acts 16:15)
Jason (Acts 17:7)
Mnason (Acts 21:16)
People of Melita (Acts 28:2)
Publius (Acts 28:7)
Gaius (3 John 1:5, 6)

Jesus’ ministry required the hospitality of others as He and His followers traveled. (Mk. 1:29ff.; 2:15ff.; Lk. 7:36ff.; 10:38–41)

Jesus told them

If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:5)

One of the most sobering passages in the entire Bible makes reference of welcoming the stranger. Jesus said

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (Matthew 25:31-33)

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:34-36)

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ (Matthew 25:37-39)

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ (Matthew 25:41-43)

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ (Matthew 25:44)

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:45)

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)

Could Jesus be any clearer? When we welcome strangers, we welcome Jesus. When we serve the poor, feed the hungry, visit the prisoner…we are serving Jesus.

And that must be our motivation, our vision. Welcoming strangers is not done because it necessarily brings us pleasure, happiness, or comfort. At its most primal essence hospitality is an expression of love.

The writer of Hebrews said

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:1-2)

If you met Jesus in the flesh, and you knew it was Jesus, would you treat Him differently than an immigrant with a thick accent in the airport?

If you met an angel, and you knew it was an angel, and you weren’t freaked out by it, would you treat them differently than a pan handler on the street?

A special emphasis is placed upon serving other believers, especially because many were persecuted, driven from their homes, and fighting to survive.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10)

We are family. Family takes care of family.

The Shadow Side of Family

It has been said that every strength has a corresponding weakness. A close-knit family is great…until someone wants to break in and join! Virtually every married person knows the thrill of joining a new family, meeting the in-laws, encountering that strange uncle, and trying to learn everyone’s name. That’s just the beginning! For years—decades—you are surrounded by stories that are as foreign to you as Siberia.

The majority of our Scio family has been together for more than ten years. That’s a long time, especially in the Ann Arbor area. Some of our youth have literally grown up together. You have stories, you have inside jokes, you have close friendships…and possibly cliques, too.

This month marks four years for me at Scio. In most churches, that would be considered quite a while, but honestly, I still feel rather new around here. Many of you have been a part of our family two, three, four, or five times as long as Heather and I have…some even longer! If I feel new, imagine how first or second-time guests feel.

The Good News

I believe we are getting better at welcoming the stranger. I don’t have pages of data to support my belief, but last year’s Flip of our Sunday gatherings and our transition from academic Sunday School to interactive Life Groups has clearly enhanced not only our family life but created natural environments for newcomers to get connected. Many of you are diligent about introducing yourselves on Sunday morning to guests. The development of our coffee ministry by Dea, Janet, and now led by Emily not only serves our family members but provides refreshment for our guests. Thank you!

Did you know our monthly second-Sunday potlucks were started to welcome strangers? Food is powerful. Even more than coffee, a meal can create a tremendous setting for conversation. As you meet newcomers—especially on second Sundays—encourage them to join your Life Group…and stick around for lunch.

So What?

Newcomers frequently tell us in surveys we are a friendly church. That’s great! As we have discovered, however, people aren’t looking for a friendly church. They are looking for friends! May I offer a few additional possibilities for welcoming the stranger…beyond Sunday?

  • Invite someone to meet you for coffee or a meal at a restaurant or coffee shop
  • Invite someone to your home for a meal
  • Invite someone to your midweek Life Group
  • Connect on social media online (this can be especially good for introverts)

Speaking of introverts, if Jesus showed up, how would you respond? Really now! I’m not saying any of this is easy, but whoever said following Jesus was easy? He said to pick up your cross daily and follow Him.

  • Ask open-ended questions to allow them to talk about themselves
  • Ask how you can pray for them
  • Pray for them, in person and/or privately
  • Find a common interest or hobby and plan something together

Perhaps you’re thinking, “I’m busy!” Yes. What if you could be busy
with someone.

9. Invite someone to go grocery shopping with you
10. Workout together
11. Run errands together

You get the idea.

Family, we’re on a mission from God. It’s not that the church has a mission, but that the mission has a church. We—the people of God—are here, and we’re not simply here to encounter God. Were that the case, we’d be swept away to paradise with God the moment we begin to follow Him. We are still here to re-present Him to those in our world that have not yet encountered their Creator, experienced rich community, surrendered their lives to Jesus making Him not only Savior but LORD, and proclaimed in word and deed His presence and power to others.

Our mission:

We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 
• serving our communities
• sharing our story
• sending disciples to bless the nations

so that God is glorified.
Making disciples begins with meeting people. We are blessed to have a website, a sign on a busy road, and a visible building, all of which attract visitors to our gatherings. Those strangers that arrive on our campus knowing no one take a huge risk when they walk through the front doors, something many of you have done almost unconsciously hundreds or even thousands of times. Wouldn’t it be great if their risk paid off, they made connections with us, were equipped to make connections with our community, and all the while making connections with God?

If you are challenged or even frightened at the thought of talking with a first-time guest on Sunday morning, of shaking their hand, of even looking them in the eye and offering them a warm smile, imagine how
they feel? This is our home. It is not theirs…yet!

There has been much discussion amongst church leaders in recent years concerning the difference between attractional and missional church strategies. In other words, the difference between getting people to come to us versus us going into the world where they are and being Jesus with skin on, serving our communities. We need both. God has blessed us with a fantastic building and property. I’d love to see it used more often, by us and even by the community. What if our back yard became a community garden…or a park for dogs? Scio Township is trying to build a walking trail that might end on our property, a perfect destination for residents who bike, jog, or walk. We presently host music lessons, Girl Scouts, and elections. If you have ideas on how we can use our real estate to serve our community, please speak to myself or one of the elders.

But we also need to go into all of the world and make disciples. We need to get out of our comfort zones and enter the worlds of others. We need to become the strangers, taking the risks, and enriching the lives of others with the words and deeds of good news. This summer a team of us will travel to the Dominican Republic, certainly not our home! We are going to serve, to love, to re-present Jesus…yet we will surely be blessed far greater than any blessing we could ever hope to deliver. Please give, pray, and/or go…to the Dominican Republic…and to your neighborhood.

One More Thing

Jesus set the ultimate example for us to follow:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

Jesus welcomed us, messy sinners, into His family. We were strangers and aliens and now we are His brothers and sisters. We didn’t deserve it, which is why it is grace—undeserved favor. To whom much has been given, much is required. Let’s seek out the lost, the strangers, the aliens, the broken, the hurting, the poor among us and truly show them love.

Let’s welcome strangers…until they become friends!

By the way, kids, you still need to be careful around strangers!

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

E13U796O04I5BEO0