Showing items filed under “Jeremy Shirley”
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We go to great lengths to make sure the church looks good.  While no one else is looking we make sure that when others see the church, they see something that’s nice, well maintained, clean, and orderly.  It’s no different from our own homes, if you have family coming over soon for a Christmas celebration, you’re likely already working hard on that to-do-list.  Knocking out projects, decorating the house, cleaning, and making sure the areas that others will see look just right.  We know no one will be in our bedroom, closets or that basement storage room so all the unsightly things get piled there.  We’d be so embarrassed if others saw our mess. 

Back to the church….I’m not making an argument that we shouldn’t clean and maintain the building….this actually has nothing to do with the building.  It has nothing to do with the great job the men and women who work behind the scenes to prep our building for events and Worship.  It doesn’t even have anything to do with reverence in worship.  It has everything to do with what the church actually is….the people.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging you to come in your Sunday “Worst”; this has little to do with how you dress, how you groom yourselves or anything else like that.   

In Sunday School, we’ve just started back on our study of Acts.  When I study Scripture, my mind tends to wander towards imagining what things were really like, the perspective of those at that time.  For me in Acts, the question I think through is what it would have been like to be a part of the early church.  Based on the way things happened…and happened quickly…I have to imagine that the early church was a complete and total mess.  Can you imagine what the early church was like in the weeks and months following the addition of 3000 in Acts 2:47….the continued addition of people daily as mentioned in Acts 2:47…the 5000 added in Acts 4:4…the multitudes added in Acts 5:12.  Can you imagine the mess that the early church was?  I’m not talking organizationally….although that was lacking as well considering as we see in Acts 14:23, Paul and Barnabas were appointing elders in every church.   

Think about this for a minute…while we are new creations in Christ when we start our relationship with Christ….that doesn’t mean all of the sudden we’re sin free does it?  We continue to work through our salvation day by day…sometimes taking big steps forward….sometimes small steps.  So what I’m getting at is the early church had to be full of people who were recent converts or new creations as well as those they knew that through the spread of the gospel were there to see what was going on.  You’re talking about people who by in large probably didn’t know the right way to act in church….probably didn’t know the right way to respond to teaching…..probably didn’t know how to respect the elders of the church….probably didn’t say all the right things or avoid using all the “bad words”.  It just had to be a mess.  When you think about it, even those that the Spirit was putting in positions of leadership within the body were relatively new believers.  If we have no better example, consider Peter.  He spent roughly 3 years with Christ…then when Jesus was to be crucified….Peter in all of his spiritual maturity was denying Christ…..and post resurrection, it’s only a short time before Christ set Peter on the path to be one of the most important leaders in the early church.   

Here’s what I’m getting at…I think we may have a picture of the church as properly functioning when the people come, they dress the right way, they behave the right way, they respect everyone, and are all growing in their relationship with Christ just like we are.  While that’s a nice idea, I think that might be more our spiritual immaturity coming out than our maturity.  The church should be a mess.  It should be in a constant state of transition as new believers come in, lost people are present seeking answers from God and people are working out their salvation.   

If our Sunday School groups, our Worship services, our Bible Studies, and Events look like your clean house right before the relatives comes over….I think we’re missing something.  Where’s the clutter?  Where’s the mess?  Where is the genuineness of our lives being a mess?  Where are the new believers?  Where are the lost?   

As we approach 2018, how about we mess up the place?  Please don’t spill your coffee on the carpet…but how about you and I grow in spiritual maturity by making the church a mess, instead of trying to cultivate a clean environment that appeals to our own selfishness, let’s mess up the place and engage new believers, share the gospel with the lost and bring the seekers into the church.  Let’s channel our inner early church, the Holy Spirit, and make a mess as big as Christmas morning! 

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Fall is in the air and football is in full force.  For some of us our favorite college team brings nothing but frustration and for others of us it’s a time of great joy.  The beauty of Saturday competition on the football field as young men leave it all on the field to bring the team and fan base the win is incredible.  For those of you that are avid football fans, games can keep you on the edge of your seat…..or out of your seat.   You’ll find yourself yelling, tweeting, and almost experiencing a heart attack.  That’s just the emotions of those of us that are cheering for the winning team. 

As a huge University of Kentucky fan, I love that Kentucky finally has a decent football team….although if I’m honest, they made Mizzou’s terrible team look like a pro team this past Saturday.  One of the things that frustrates me the most about this team is their “play not to lose” attitude.   If you’re not familiar with this strategy, it sounds like a good idea.  Nobody wants to lose, so why wouldn’t you “play not to lose”?  Here’s where you misunderstand the frustrating nature of this strategy and also where I want to connect it to how we live the Christian life.

In football, the “play not to lose” strategy looks like this…..we’ll get the lead in the first half of the game, then we’ll get conservative, run the ball, avoid turnovers and costly mistakes, and let our defense keep us ahead.  While I can appreciate confidence in a defense, the game goes 2 halves and the other team won’t stop trying to score just because you’re ahead.  For me personally this has resulted in 3 weekends in a row where Kentucky got an early lead and then I watched a second half that could nearly kill me as they “played not to lose”.  3 out of 3 of those games came down to a last second play that could have cost them the game.

So what does the “play not to lose” mentality have to do with our Christian life?  We have the early lead.  If we want to get technical, Jesus actually already won the game through His death, burial and resurrection.  Back to the game.  We have Christ in our lives, we’re attending worship, reading our Bible, we’re in a Sunday School group etc.  We’re running the plays in the game of life.  Some of them are even really good plays.  It’s the second half now, we just have to maintain the lead. 

What’s the point of the game of football?  They’re trying to score more points than the opposing team.  The offense is trying to put points on the board and the defense is trying to keep points off the board.  So in our Christian life, since we already have the lead….we start playing defense.  We don’t need to score points because Jesus has scored enough.  We stop working heard on offense to score points.  We’re just maintaining, taking up time, keeping the ball out of the other teams hands.  What’s that look like in the Christian’s life?  We stop focusing on the mission God has given us….to reach people for Christ and make disciples, who will make disciples.  We fall back on defense, we get comfortable with our church, our Sunday School group, our personal walk with Christ.  We keep running plays, we keep engaging in ministry, maybe we even lead a ministry, but it’s not wholly focused on scoring points; reaching people for Christ. 

As the game progresses, we fall in love with our lead…..I mean our church and our small group…. and we can get so comfortable with the lead that we have that we stop scoring points all together.  We stop sharing our faith, we stop praying for lost people, we stop challenging others to do those things.  Why?  Because we’re “playing not to lose”.  We got the lead, it feels good, let’s protect what we got and get to the end of the game.  It’s a scary thing to think our church or other churches could grow to the point where we felt comfortable enough to employ the strategy of “playing not to lose”.

As I’ve watched Kentucky in its last few games, I’ve experienced all of the stress and emotion that comes with watching a team “play not to lose”.  They ran plays on offense, but just running the ball over and over, not scoring points…creating a very frustrating experience for me.  I can’t help but wonder if God looks at us as individuals…as groups….as churches and experiences some of the same frustration watching us “play not to lose”?

God wants us to put points on the board; there is never a point where he wants us to start coasting.  We have more lost people around us young and old than ever here in America.  Let’s get out there and score some points.  Plot and Plan…..Pray…..with your family and with your Sunday School groups.  Then go out and score points.  Let’s play to win, every play…..every day, every conversation, every opportunity God gives us.

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