Modern Evangelism: Your Church Sucks, Come to ours instead

I am a sword carrying idiot. I’ve been known to wrecklessly wield my good intentions at people and not only cut their ears off, but their heads as well.  This blog post is as much about me as it is THEM.

 

Remember when there used to be ethics in advertising? There was a day when companies would spend their ad dollars on themselves without ever once mentioning the competition. I miss those days. I could be wrong, but I think Burger King was the first nationally known company to advertise against someone else. That someone else being McDonalds.  It was only a matter of time before everyone followed suit and today some companies go so far trashing the competition that the only name I remember from the commercial is the other brand. Yeah that’s effective.

Politicians do the same thing. They spend their advertising budget slandering their opponent without ever saying what they themselves stand for.

What saddens me is churches and some pastors are following the same path. Not just in my LCMS world either. Follow Twitter for a while and you’ll see what I mean – pastor’s world-wide trashing other pastors and churches for being different.

You’re going to hell and I’m not and let me tell you why. – ooh love me some piety. With an opening like that, I don’t even want to be in the same room as you, much less be stuck with you for eternity.

The emergent church this.

The liturgical church that.

This conference is horrible and ours is much Godlier – wanna know why? No not anymore, I send my kids to that and you just accused me of being ungodly for doing so. Besides – the horse you’re riding on is so high, I can’t hear all the way down here in the gutter you act like I live in.

Marketing 101 says “Don’t waste precious resources (dollars and time) talking about someone else’s brand. Talk about your own.

Every worthwhile communication skills book I’ve ever read tells me not to start with you statements. You statements are confrontational and achieve nothing more than putting the other person in a defensive position. People don’t hear anything past a slam; it’s ineffective and childish. You’ve just told me I’m an idiot, bad parent, ungodly, whatever for supporting X and you want me to listen to you? Fat chance bub.

Insulting me – which is what happens with you statements, doesn’t make you look better in my eyes, it makes you look like, well… a donkey.

Imagine if we spoke to our spouses or kids like that? You never take out the trash. You’re lazy why can’t you keep the house looking the way I like it? You never listen to me. You… you… you…

Problem is, the real issue is rarely about you and really about me — I have a need that is going unmet and I while I may not be intentionally blaming you for it, I’m going to defend it even if it means cutting your head off. You statements breed rebellion or worse – little deaths of esteem, trust, respect and maybe even the relationship.

The only thing that can heal that is the supernatural touch of Christ.

Remember Peter and the night in the garden? He cut off the ear of a Roman soldier sent to take Christ to Pilate.

John 18: 1When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.

 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

 4Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

 5″Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

   “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

 7Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
      And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

 8″I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”[a]

 10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

 11Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

The Gospel of Luke Chapter 22 states this as well: 

47While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

 49When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

 51But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

Poor Peter – just hours before this little skirmish he told Jesus he was ready to follow him to prison and even death. But Jesus knew better. Peter was passionate to be sure and his passion was actually a stumbling block for the progression of the church and the Gospel. Peter wound up being humbled through incredible failure – he denied knowing Jesus three times.

I’m a former Shaolin Swordsman. I know how heavy swords are and how to properly wield them. The laws of physical science also prove that Peter wasn’t going for the guard’s ear. He was wielding that sword perpendicular to the ground and going for his head. Fortunately the soldier ducked.

How does that apply to today’s world? Well meaning (I hope) and passionate people – people like you and like me – are wielding verbal swords at each other – intending I believe to defend Christ – only we mess it up and cut each other’s ears and heads off with you statements and arrogant piety, and Christ has to intervene and tell us to stop.

My passion for truth can be a stumbling block for many – and it takes the hand of Christ to heal the ears I’ve cut off in my life.

My actions in my life have also denied Christ a time or two. My sword has probably turned more people off than on when it comes to the Christian faith.

I “get” Peter. I understand his love, his wellmeaningness and his passion. I used to carry his sword with me and wielded it any chance I got, confusing those who disagreed with me, with the enemy. Maybe that is why I kinda like some of these younger missionaries I see passionately supporting their stand. They are in the Gethsemane season of life – praying lest they fall into temptation – defending Jesus with all their soul and might – thinking they know what lies ahead, but they really don’t. Not yet. They are living on the dark side of the resurrection if you will. And what I mean by that, is they see the Law – Jesus having to suffer and die for our sins – and they have not lived long enough yet to see the Gospel – The Ressurected Christ, the grace and mercy bestowed upon our lives. They’re not there yet.

They too will be humbled and they too will be restored – just like Peter and the rest of us sword carrying idiots – and soon enough they will learn how to fish again.

Who is the swordsman in your life? Is it you? Or is it someone else. How do you deal with swords that come your way?

This blog post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved. July 16, 2010

I Want You to See Something about Ablaze

For up-to-date Synodical News Check the Synodical Convention Link. They have tabs built within that allow you view live streaming video of what is really going on down there. I love it!

I’ve been talking about our Synodical Conference this week and while doing so I realized that I use the terms Ablaze rather interchangeably. This has been confusing to people, especially to those outside of our Lutheran Circle. Let me clarify if I may.

There is ABLAZE! which refers to our Synodical Mission Program (something our family and home congregation supports) and there is Ablaze, the church plant in Northern Broken Arrow which is sponsored by The Lutheran Church of Our Savior. I didn’t pick the name – so don’t ask me why we named it that, I don’t know.  I realize that unless you are part of our group, it’s really hard to distinguish what I’m talking about. Most of the conversations this week have been about the ABLAZE! initiative. For today’s post, I will be talking about Ablaze Church.

While some church plants receive funding from their districts, others are privately funded. We at Ablaze Church do not receive a dime of the Fan into Flame funding, and we are okay with that. There is another church plant in Bixby that does get district assistance and they need it more than we do.  Thier Vicar (who is under direct supervision of a local pastor) has to raise his own salary and funding for his church and deserves a livable wage. Our pastor is already earning a salary from our home church and the time spent at Ablaze is 100% volunteer. He does not get compensated for his time there – and neither do the rest of us. We are all volunteers. All funding we receive is courtesy of our home congregation and private donations or tithes made by Ablaze families.

Our little mission start began on Easter weekend in 2006. We rent space from Liberty Elementary School and meet on Saturday nights with Bible Study at 6pm and services beginning at 6:30. Because of the rental costs and rules of the school we have to be out by 9:00 pm.  Also because of rental costs, we can really only afford to be there one night a week. That does not leave a lot of opportunities for outreach which is why we host events from time to time.

Ablaze church is a 100% a mobile church. What that means is we have a trailer locked up at our home congregation across town. Every Saturday at 3:00 pm, a group drives out there, loads the trailer and drives it back to Liberty, 30 minutes away. The doors open at 4:00pm and for the next two hours we are unloading our trailer, setting up the cafeteria and running sound checks.

Can you imagine if the elders of your church had to do that every Sunday Morning? They arrive to a building with no pews, no sound system, no pulpit, no coffee or snacks, no Bibles or hymnals and they have to set everything up before church can begin?

Services at Ablaze end by 8pm. We have a short time of fellowship and our team begins to take down the sound system, pack up the nursery and the bibles and books and load everything back into the trailer. We pray and are back on the road to Our Savior’s garage by 9pm. Once there, our team unloads the trailer and puts the sound system back inside the church to protect it from the climate.

We’ve been doing this every Saturday for 4 1/2 years.

We've added new faces since this photo was taken, but this is Zion's Fire.

Yes, we have a praise band called Zion’s fire to lead worship. And yes, they do contemporary Christian songs as well as reworked hymns and original compositions. We also have confession and absolution, and pastor Dreier delivers not only the children’s message, but the sermon as well.

We decided early on that we wanted our signature outreach event to be the Easter Egg Hunt.  Most churches today are only doing hunts within the privacy of their own court yards, for their own congregations. We wanted to be different. We wanted to reach the young families in the neighborhood. And so we opened our first weekend with 4,000 eggs and about 100 prizes. It was cold and snowy that day and we expected at most 100-200 people.

Pastor delivering the Easter Egg Hunt Devotional to about 500 kids

750 people showed up that day, filling the cafeteria. People were standing in the hallway to hear the message. And we were blown away. Seeing the need in the community, we went bigger the next year and planned for 8,000 eggs.

Over 60 volunteers gathered to stuff eggs and help with the hunt.

We made a few mistakes with the hunt in 2007.  I’d gather that anywhere from 1,500-2,000 people showed up and we were only expecting 1,000 at the most. We didn’t want to turn people away and yet, our building could not contain the crowds. We learned a lot of hard lessons that year. This event failed on many levels. There was a crowd gathering outside while we were worshipping inside and even though people were stationed out there to guard the eggs families were lining up, a child yelled “go” and like that, all 8,000 eggs were gone. We learned a lot that year. We learned that we needed to be 100% outside. We learned to shorten the service. We learned to combine this with a food drive, to equip team members with walkie talkies, and to have security present. Did the results of this event keep us from trying again?

No. In 2008 we tried again, this time with 12,000 eggs and instead of placing them out in the field before hand, we roped and sectioned it off and placed eggs after people arrived. We also asked families to donate a can of food for Neighbor for Neighbor as they came onto the grounds.

We filled over 35 crates of food for Neighbor for Nieghbor.
Tupper Teaching the Children about the Resurrection - being a new creation in Christ using Balloons.

We also did something unusual. We hired a clown to deliver the message. That is not a typo folks. We hired Stephen Smith, otherwise known as Tupper the Clown, to deliver the message for our hunt.

Do you see how many kids are there? We couldn’t count them. A lot of these families probably have a home church and a lot of these families don’t.  Several families have joined Ablaze church as the result of these egg hunts. And all of these families are invited back to Our Savior for our Easter morning worship services.
For those curious or even offended about the use of a clown to deliver the message that day, Steve Smith is an ordained minister and preachers kids to boot.  He owns and operates Christian Sanity Theater and performs throughout the state teaching children about science, history, and Jesus Christ. You can learn more about him by clicking here to see his websight.  I have personally hired Steve for personal parties as well as fundraisers. He is very gifted.
We’ve done other events as well including a fall festival. We wanted to do something to counter Halloween.
We invited various bands to come perform. This photo is the Axis Worship Band from Rhema
We also invited Christian Comic Michele VanDusen to provide CLEAN FAMILY FRIENDLY entertainment.
Michele VanDusen bringing laughter to the stage.
Local rancher and member of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Dale Brookshire brought his chuck wagon for eats.
Everyone Enjoyed Dale's Authentic Cowboy Chuck Wagon
And again we have the children. That come out to Ablaze either on Saturday nights or for our events.
Neighborhood children enjoying a wet inflatable during Fall Fest
And of course, no church event is complete without pastor Dreier proclaiming the gospel of Christ.
Ablaze Church in Broken Arrow meets faithfully every Saturday Night at Liberty Elementary School in Broken Arrow. We hold various events throughout the year in order to reach out to the community. We also transport Ablaze youth to Vacation Bible School at Our Savior every year.
We are presently looking at a permanent home for ourselves and need your prayers that God would lead us in the right direction very soon.
Next week, I’ll talk about some of the things Our Savior Lutheran Church in Tulsa does for their LOCAL community as well.

Convention Updates: And Links to the Reporter

People are asking me how the convention is going. I don’t really know because I’m not there. But man I wish I was now.  I am however susbcribed to updates, and while I’m not allowed to copy the President Kieschnick’s opening speech – or any of the press releases in my blog, I am however, allowed to publish the links to them.  For my non-Lutheran readers who would like to know what is going on in Houston right now feel free to check out our news releases. Better yet, you can subscribe to these updates for free by checking out: http://www.lcms.org/pages/convention.asp?NavID=13524

While I am not present, I have read Synodical President Kieschnick’s opening speech. I loved it. Included in his address is an explanation of a statement he made early on that offended a lot of people – When he said “This isn’t your Grandfather’s Church”, he was referring to the world we live in and not what other people made it out to be. While a lot of us knew what he’d meant all along, many did not and I’m glad he clarified. His address also speaks of the malice and gossip presently ripping our synod apart. He sounds more pastoral than politician to me. It’s a wonderful speech and I hope you read it. Law and Gospel in true Lutheran form. I love it.

President Kieschnick’s full speech: http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/2010%20Convention/gbk_report.pdf

 For more information on our Synodical Convention, please sign up for the free newsletter or at least check out the web page http://www.lcms.org/pages/convention.asp?NavID=13524

I’ve shared this in the past. I have removed my self from all but two blog rings and all social networks except Facebook because I could not handle the hatred, malice and gossip among my own brethren. Yes I deleted a pastor last night – his snarky remarks were more than I could take. I even stopped reporting on our church plant lest I be thrown into the political arena that surrounds LCMS today. I used to spin. My heart would break and I would get angry over the cruel satire and blatant lies. I would draw my sword and defend our stand.  I don’t do that anymore. Today, I let people talk and I ask what I hope are leading questions. If I get a nasty response, I move on. Bad enough I was getting it from my own church at times. I didn’t want it here. and I still don’t.

You are free to comment on my blog so long as your comments are courteous and respectful. I reserve the right to delete anything I consider to be off topic or just down right snarky.