Church Family Throw Down (Sacred Assembly)

In 2010 we had a Sacred Assembly that we called a Throw Down.  It was a radical night of repentance followed by months of repentance.  I presented areas where I believed we needed to change as a church with scriptures and asked the church what it would look like to change in these ways.  It took a lot of faith but the Christians in our church wanted to be disciples of Jesus – they just needed to be presented with the standard of Christ in the scriptures.  This was a real catalyst for growth!  After that night I sent this email that should give you a good idea of the conversation we had:

Here are my notes from last night’s throw down.  This is a long email but please read it, print it, savor it.  We need it.  Already, the response to the midweek lessons at church has been epic, but now we have to truly change, the lesson below tells us how to begin:

Jun 3, 2010 1:40 PM

What to expect when you are expecting the church to be a family

Jesus radically taught that when a person became his follower they were not making a personal decision.  Becoming a follower of Jesus meant and still means that we join the new family that he instituted and that His new family (the church) would take priority over all of our other relationships and allegiances.  This is clearly and undeniably reflected in the following verses and many others:

“Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.” – Mark 1:20

“‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ He asked.  Then he looked around at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.'” – Mark 3:33-35

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me…” – Matthew 10:37

Since the word of God is our standard, we have no choice but to obey the words and will of our Lord and be his loving family.  We need to see our faith as a community and family instead of as individuals.  In Jesus’ time the will of the family always trumped that of the individual and Paul commanded that to be our culture in Philippians 2 when he commanded us to “consider others better than yourself.”  That is the basic mind change that we must all make.  It is simple but so difficult in our increasingly selfish and individualistic culture. But, where the world around us makes the decision to put church family before self difficult, it also makes the decision so meaningful.  If we can set this example it will speak louder than a thousand sermons to tell the world what following Jesus is really all about.

John F Kennedy attempted to wake our nation up from it’s selfishness 50 years ago and for a short time his anthem, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” brought national unity.  If we simply obey the commands of Jesus we will define Christianity for our area as a group who asks not what the church can do for me or how the church can serve me or meet my needs, but asks what we can be for the church.  The result of such repentance will be all of us seeing and living in the church we love to dream about as we read our bibles.  God has not changed, he dreams of seeing that church even more than us- and he can make it happen if we will obey.

Last night at midweek we “threw down” the scriptures and commands that we need to obey to be a New Testament church family.  We laid out expectations for the group.  We have to stop taking sermons and even communion lessons as “this is what I need to change”.  If you need to change it and be different or better, then everyone else needs it too.  “This is what WE need to change or be” should be the new response.  We will grow in every way as church if we stop changing ourselves and instead change our expectations for the entire group whenever we change ourselves.

The lowdown on the throwdown:

Hospitality
Obey:
Practice hospitality (Romans 12:13)
This is a command. Matthew 25:44 reveals that we will be judged according to this command.

Expect your brothers and sisters:
To invite you into their homes
To be at your house often
To invite you to do things with them (kid’s events, vacations, picnics, etc.)
To be with you for events
To help strangers

Celebration
Obey:
Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4, 8)
In Deuteronomy 16:15 God instituted times of celebration as a means of worship.

Expect your brothers and sisters:
To remember and celebrate what God has done
To celebrate birthdays, baptisms, achievements, anniversaries and anything good as a group
To see joyful celebration as meaningful worship (on the same level as singing praises)

Encouragement
Obey:
Encourage one another daily (Hebrews 3:13)
The Hebrew writer invokes “brothers” to remind them that the church is their family in 3:12

Expect your brothers and sisters:
To call or meet up with people daily
To feel uneasy and weird if a day goes by that they haven’t talked to a brother or sister
To pray for each other, with each other, all alone or on the phone
To give cards, notes, scriptures, smiles and hugs
To think about you and challenge you to be better for God
To humbly and thankfully accept encouragement and challenges

Know each other
Obey:
Above all, love each other deeply (1 Peter 4:8)

Expect your brothers and sisters:
To not just pretend to love others
To delight in each other
To ask you deep and meaningful questions
To be open about thoughts, feelings and life

Serving each other
Obey:
Serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13)
1 John 3:17 says that if we do not serve each other from our own resources the love of God is not in us

Expect your brothers and sisters:
To help you in any way that they can
To have compassion when you are in need
To be selfless
To maintain an “it’s not about me” attitude
To never be in need for very long
To always have an ear to talk to
To see and hear about needs and be asked to respond with help

Serving the needy
Obey:
Continue to remember the poor (Galatians 2:10)
Proverbs 14:31 says that we show hatred for God when we neglect the poor

Expect your brothers and sisters:
To serve anyone in need, in and out of church
To hand out lunches or serve with non-profits
To contribute sacrificially
To give hugs to the sick and the poor
To never say “no” to anyone in or out of the church that has a need he or she can meet

Teaching each other
Obey:
Correct, rebuke and encourage- with great patience and careful instruction (2 Timothy 4:2)
In Romans 15:14, Paul assures the church that they have the ability to teach one another

Expect your brothers and sisters:
To be open minded
To be soft hearted
To not be easily offended
To choose humility over pride
To desire teaching and training to do right
To know that you will not learn if no one is teaching you
To be aggressive in discipleship relationships
To come to you with questions and answers from the scriptures

Outward focused
Obey:
Go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18)
Matthew 5 tells us that the church is the light of the world, a city on a hill- constantly outward focused

Expect your brothers and sisters:
To shine in all the things they do
To see visitors at church all the time
To see the opposite is selfish in everyone
To go out two by two just to share your faith
To always be studying the bible with a friend or family member

Committed and devoted to fellowship
Obey:
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  (Romans 12:10)

Expect your brothers and sisters:
To be with the body
To come early and leave late
To come looking to meet needs
To love you with true deep love
To put your needs above their own
To create their own new ways to fellowship
To think about the church calendar before filling in their own calendar

Genuine concern for each other
Obey:
Whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:21)

Expect your brothers and sisters:
To help you clean, move, serve
To contact you daily
To call you if they are going to miss so you won’t worry
To get a hold of you if you miss and fill you in
To attentively listen and give biblical advice
To give good hugs

Hanging out and enjoying one another
Obey:
Do not give up meeting together…but encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25)

Expect your brothers and sisters:
To not be fools and obey the Golden Rule
To feel weird when they do things without each other
To be really good at having fun without having a reason
To have their happiest moments with one another

Working out all your problems
Obey:
Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13)

Expect your brothers and sisters:
To bring feelings and hurts out into the light right away
To talk to you if they feel anything negative toward you
To be incapable of worshipping until any problem is worked out
To be even closer after working through conflict in a Godly manner

Worship
Obey:
Be a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5)
The priesthood was in charge of worshipping God and we are commanded to be that

Expect your brothers and sisters:
To proclaim the great things Of God
To come to worship with hearts fully given to God and each other
To not have to manufacture a smile
To pray and get ready before meeting with the body
To believe and act like worship has nothing to do with them and everything to do with God and his family

There it is, thrown down.

Your first reaction may be similar to mine: overwhelmed.  It is easy to look at these commands and the expectations that follow them and think, “I have not lived up to this because no one can live up to this.”  If that is what you think you are right.  No ONE can live up to this.  Not even a handful of individuals in the church could do this with out burning out.  No, we all have to obey and expect these things of EVERYONE or it is impossible.

God does not command what he cannot complete.  WE can do this.  I believe it for two solid reasons: God has commanded it and it has been done before.  What other evidence do we need?

So it starts now.  The commands and expectations have been thrown down and now it is up to us to obey and expect obedience in each other.

As we move through the summer, sentences that include the words, “I expect you to…” should be rolling off of our tongues and ringing in our ears. “I expect you to be here on time and I love you enough to tell you.”. “I love you so I expect you to call me back as soon as you can.”. “I am concerned for you, I expect you to think about your church family before you totally fill your family calendar.”. Obviously, no one will speak up unless they have these same expectations for themselves.  But it is not enough to just expect ourselves to change.

I once got parenting advice from Mike Fontenot, he said the general rule for raising great kids is “heavy love, heavy expectations.”. In Israel I got church leadership advice from him and he said, “high faith, high expectations.”. Let’s expect the best from one another, let’s accept nothing less than the best!

To sum all of it up and make it easy to remember and digest we can just remember this one thing and make it our anthem as we look out at the church:

I EXPECT YOU TO BE MY BROTHER
I EXPECT YOU TO BE MY SISTER

Any time someone fails us in brotherhood or sisterhood they must be lovingly and passionately confronted (Matthew 18:15)

The result?  True Christian family.  In this life, what more do we need?  (Mark 10:28-31)

Next Wednesday we will talk about how to raise expectations and hinderances to being a family- I can’t wait!  Then in the coming weeks we will shift gears to talk about our closest brother and sister relationships- discipleship partners.

Let me know any ideas you have!

Your brother,

Joel

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