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5 PRACTICES OF A FRUITFUL CHURCH – RISK TAKING MISSION AND SERVICE
What do you think the purpose of church is? I would argue that it is two-fold: To make disciples of Jesus Christ; and the transformation of the world.
The first is simple enough; we are people who follow Jesus way of being in relationship with God. Jesus himself used those words, “Follow me and...” on a few occasions. He also urged his followers to become more and more like him; and therefore closer and closer to God.
Secondly, Jesus whole message was about the Kingdom of God, and how it was supposed to be here among us. We pray every week, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done...” and what we are really saying is that we believe in the whole peace and harmony thing that God has always been trying to get us to live up to. We are talking about the lion lying down with the lamb, about a place where widows and orphans are the most important and taken care of – where we let the captives free and heal the broken. This is the world the church is actively trying to build.
But how do we do that?
There is a new movement coming out of the states called “The Five Practices” it was started by a Methodist Bishop, Robert Schnase, who did some work trying to figure out how we should best approach being church in a post Christian world; What he came across was, to use a marketing term, the five best practices of churches that are really vital:
· Radical Hospitality,
· Passionate Worship,
· Intentional Faith Development,
· Risk-Taking Mission and Service,
· and Extravagant Generosity.
The practices are basic and fundamental. But it’s the adjectives that make these words come alive, because they stretch us and cause us to ask ourselves, “How are we doing in practicing these qualities of ministry in our congregation? How might we do better?”
As we take Lent as a time to examine ourselves personally, I want us also to take this opportunity to examine ourselves corporately... To take the next five weeks and look at these five practices. SO my question for today is:
Do we do Risk Taking Mission and Service?
Listen again to Jesus’ lament for Jerusalem... a lament for his church:
“Yet... I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
So this is where we start. We are Jerusalem. And by that I don’t simply mean that we would crucify Jesus if he showed up here too; I mean that we are just as unwilling to listen to the prophets in our midst. We are just as unwilling to take risks that might lead to change.
And, perhaps, we are afraid to risk our comfort if it means making the world outside these walls, a world of poverty, starvation, warfare, criticism, pettiness, manipulation and greed a little more real.
I am just guessing... I am not accusing... I am asking you to help me to look at Mount Royal and think about who we are.
Here is how Robert Schnase describes Risk Taking Mission and Service:
“This involves work that stretches people, causing them to do something for the good of others that they would never have considered doing if it were not for their relationship with Christ and their desire to serve Him. These churches not only solicit and encourage ordinary service to support the work of the congregation, but they also consciously seek to motivate people to more extraordinary service. They lift examples in preaching and teaching. Risk-taking missions and service is also part of the formation of children and youth. All youth and children ministries include teaching and experiential components that stretch compassion outward beyond the walls of the church. Faith mapped in childhood provides pathways that shape lifelong commitments. These churches collaborate with other churches, other denominations, civic organizations, social agencies, and non-profit groups. They actively invite and welcome newcomers, visitors, and the unchurched to help them in making a difference in the lives of others. As congregations move beyond their comfort zones and follow Christ into more adventurous encounters with people, God’s Spirit changes them, changes others, and changes churches.”
Now these are practices—they're not qualities that some churches have and some don’t. They’re not phases that, once we get them done, we can move on to something else. These are practices that we have to learn and improve upon constantly. These are the activities that are so critical to the mission of the church, that failure to perform them in an exemplary way leads to congregational decline and deterioration.
(the remainder of the sermon was a spoken conclusion that I did not write down. feel free to imagine how I might have concluded, or in fact, how you would conclude it - grin)