Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Christ-Centered Community

The first phrase in our vision statement declares that we want to be a Christ-centered community.

The Copernican Revolution truly changed the world.

For most of history, humans believed the earth was the center of the universe and the sun rotated around the earth. But in the 1500s, that idea began to change. Copernicus released his hypothesis in the year that he died that the earth rotated around the sun.

At or around 1610, Galileo began to publically support the idea that the earth was not the center of the universe. This idea did not suit the church very well. It was around the time of the Roman Inquisition and the church denounced Galileo’s premise as heresy. After all in Joshua 10, the sun stood still in the sky, so Galileo’s premise couldn't be correct. Galileo was warned to stop his heresy, which he agreed to do, but 16 years later he published a book that argued that the earth wasn’t the center of everything. He was then tried in the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” and spent the rest of his life (8 years) under house arrest. But as we’ve come to find out, Galileo was absolutely right and the church was wrong.

But the Catholic church of the 1500s wasn't the only one to put itself at the center of history. It's a common problem we all have, isn't it?

We've been told a lie. We’ve been told that we are the main actors in our lives. Culture tells us this, but even scarier, Christianity has also assumed the same plot.

It’s all about having “your best life now.” We’ve somehow believed the lie that everything is about us. Salvation is about us. Grace is a reward for our works. The church service is about us. We’ve made Jesus out to be a means to our best possible life on earth. Somehow we’ve been led to believe that we are the main actors and that God sent Jesus in order to help our story. Almost as if Jesus is our life coach.

Our church is trying to proclaim another story. We want to acknowledge that God is at the center of God's story and we are not. Too often, churches make individuals the center of the story. We think that God's grace is given to us because of our faithfulness. We mistakenly place ourselves at the center of the universe, which makes us into consumers who are take the place of God at the center of the story. But we are beginning to understand more and more that God is the writer and director and somehow he has graciously written us into his script of redemption. For some reason, God has chosen to use his broken church to redeem the brokenness within all of humanity.

We want to be a Christ-centered church. God is the subject and he enacts the verbs.

In addition, we want to be an authentic community of people.

So many of us live in a world of pseudo-community. We ask how each other are doing each Sunday, and we're shocked when anyone would tell us anything other than "Great!" We've resigne ourselves to seeing church as a masquerade ball. Many of us wear masks to church in order to hide the pain of our lives.

Through connection groups and other ministries, we are striving to become a more authentic church. A church that seeks to find a place for everyone in our community. We, at the Littleton Church, desire for community to break out in more ways in the future.

The Copernican Revolution changed many things. And with God as the central character in our story, we hope he will change many things in our community as well.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Love God. Go Love People.

Love God. Go Love People.

Many churches have taken Jesus' two great commandments to be their church's vision. We want to be a church that loves God with everything we have and a church that loves others as ourselves.

Too many churches today are known for the number of people who go to their church and for their church's distinctives, but we want to be known for our love. For years, the Littleton Church of Christ has been known as a place where anyone is welcome. No matter your history or the mess you find yourself in, Littleton is a place where you can find acceptance and help to get your life back on track. Often, that has looked like accepting divorced people before other Churches of Christ were ready to do so, but in the coming years it will mean finding our pews filled with couples that live together, people of different social backgrounds, and homosexual couples.

I know, I know...How could a faithful church find such people in their pews? Because Jesus found tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners as followers around his table. And like Jesus, we don't invite these people to continue their broken lives. We invite these people to join with us (fellow broken people) to find ourselves again in the Jesus story. We invite them with us on the journey because we can't think of a more hypocritical way of life than to define our brokenness as more socially appropriate and less serious than "those" kind of people.

But more than anything, we join other broken people on this journey because we know that God wants to bring healing in all of our lives. So...we'll love God and love people.

But there's another word in our vision statement that can't be missed. GO!!! The call of the church doesn't stop with loving God and loving people. We can do that in the safe confines of our church building. We also believe the Great Commission calls us to leave the doors of our building each week and find ourselves again on God's mission in the world.

This charge is intended to be a short statement to describe what we are called to do every time we leave our doors. In fact, every week at the benediction, I end our service with this phrase (Love God. Go Love People). It's a reminder that we are called to live our the Great Commandments and the Great Commission in all that we do. While this statement, if taken seriously, would change the future of our church in major ways, these are two of Jesus' most fundamental messages. We want to be identified by our love more than any other distinctive we might want to hold up.


Littleton's Vision

Well, it's been 12 months in the working, but the Littleton Church has committed itself to a new vision that the Holy Spirit has led us to. The whole idea of vision is difficult at times. I'm much less concerned that our church has a vision and I'm much more concerned that God's vision has our church. But I feel like the words we have put together will guide us as we seek to be a community of faith that reaches the community around us.

Our new charge is: Love God. Go Love People.
Our new vision is: A Christ-centered community committed to being formed for missional living in pursuit of God's kingdom.

These two statements are packed full of dreams and imagination for what God might want us to become. Over the past six weeks I have unpacked that vision during my sermons. It was a challenging set of lessons focused on calling our people to a more positive vision. Over the next few weeks, I'll unpack more of what this vision is all about on my blog.

I'm excited about what God is currently doing in our body. We are becoming a much less self-obsessed church as we seek to find ourselves again in God's story of mission and redemption.

For a long time the Littleton Church has been a regional church that has reached out to people throughout the city of Denver, but we are beginning to focus more and more on our surrounding neighborhood.

The question that has been on my mind most over the 16 months I've preached at Littleton is this: If the Littleton Church of Christ were to close our doors, would our neighborhood miss us or shed a tear over our absence? More than anything, I want the answer to that question to be YES!!!

Over the past couple of weeks, I have walked our surrounding neighborhood with three other guys from our church. We have been knocking our neighbors doors, but this is not traditional door-knocking. Instead of handing them a tract and inviting them to church, our first words to our neighbors have been: "We're members at the Littleton Church of Christ across the street and our church has been here for over thirty years. We've been terrible neighbors for not getting to know you, so we're knocking on your door so we can get to know you better and know if there's anything we can do for you or pray for you about."

The response has been pretty amazing so far. People are shocked in a very positive way. We're not selling them anything or expecting them to show up at church. We're just trying to be better neighbors and for some reason they're finding that to be revolutionary.

Churches have to begin to reach their neighborhoods again, but not in the traditional ways we have in the past. We need to imagine new ways that we can get rid of any negative perceptions that might exist when we encounter our neighborhood.

What are some ways your churches are reaching their communities?