-Rev. Melissa Fain-
Like many people these days I play Pokemon Go. I got into it for the same reason I get into most things in life. Someone I love, in this case my husband, plays it. I wanted to connect to something he connected to. I'm personally on the fence regarding churches being Poke-stops and gyms. I mean, there's this one church's parking lot I know really well, because their sign is a gym. Their sign being a gym has not moved me to want to visit their church. Also, I have less respect for churches that can't set aside a special time and place to worship and petition to God.
At the same time, I roll my eyes when I see church signs that try to be above Pokemon Go. Like there was a church sign I saw: "Jesus can catch them all. It's not a game to him." Please read these next two sentences in mock understanding, dripping with sarcasm. Oh yes, that's totally going to reach out to a secular world. I bet that zinger really had people flocking to their sanctuary.
I'm five Ponyta candy from being able to evolve my Pokemon. What does that have to do with church? Absolutely nothing, and that's okay. As Christians we need to keep a couple of things in mind when we consider what Evangelism means:
What does that mean for us?
Well, Pokemon Go is a fad, and like so many fads it's already starting to die. There's nothing wrong with using fads for sermon illustrations, but using it as a bait and switch will only make those outside your doors angry. Then, in six months it won't matter anyway. A more productive use of our time is to figure out how God is already in our communities and reaching out to that. It will last longer, and will mean more in the end.
4 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey.
5 People from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and all around the Jordan River came to him. 6 As they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. 7 Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized by John. He said to them, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? 8 Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. 9 And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire.
Matthew 3:5-10 CEB
-Rev. Melissa Fain-
Every time we pick up a bible and begin reading, we are adding to the text. It is impossible not to. Perhaps we are imagining what the scene looks like. Perhaps we are adding inflection to the words. We could be visualizing how a biblical character is standing or moving. Our brains naturally fill in the gaps. It must, because rarely do we get any clue on the adjectives describing the scene. As I mentioned before, it was probably one of the things lost as the Word moved from oral tradition to written text.
So there are things I am considering as I read Matthew 3. There are questions I think we need to at least consider. Questions that give us no clear answers, but add a layer of possible context to what we are reading.
What happened between Zachariah discovering his wife was pregnant, and John being in the wilderness?
Being a Priest was a birthright. The high priests could trace their linage back to Aaron, the first high priest. Zachariah was the real deal, and so was his son: John. Something epic happened in John's life to make him give up the "easy" path of becoming a priest, and follow the difficult path of being in the wilderness. Here is what I believe:
If this is true, it gives an added depth to the anger and resentment of the Priests throughout the bible. Jesus is not only a false prophet in their eyes, he's the one who unhinged John and got him killed. It adds a layer of humanity we often throw aside when it comes to these "children of snakes."
What is the point? You can choose to accept my theory or throw it out the window. The point is to first understand there is more going on in the story than we are privy to. We are not given a complete picture, and we must fill in the blanks in some cases. Second, it's to see the humanity in those we have labeled our enemy. God loves us all. God loves Leviathan, and God loves the children of snakes. God loves the people who turn away the children of snakes. We are at the point today where we need to be a community that brings the Body of Christ together, not hack it apart even more. Today I suggested how the very people who would eventually call for Christ's crucifixion were acting in a concerned and loving way. How much more difficult could it be to see how those with a different opinion than our own could also be acting from a human way?
-Rev. Melissa Fain-
There are certain truths about Fig Tree Christian as we work through our process:
There are two required aspects to mission and evangelism:
First: We must know the community we are engaging, and how God is already present. I've said this before, and I'll say it a million more times. Evangelism over the past three decades have been putting out a really nice welcome mat, the people choosing the welcome mat they want to cross. That's not evangelism. When we are ready, we will go out, not invite people in. BUT....
Second: We must know what we are inviting people into. These weeks where we introduce one aspect of worship, or learn about something specific about church are not for nothing. We are not a traditional plant. We are different. Because we are so radically different, we need to solidly define that before we go out into the community.
Also, I can't believe how many have figured out what we are without coming to a live event or reading any of our content. "No," has become a healthy word for our group. There are those so quick to shuffle us into the classic church plant. All one has to do is read the points above and realize we are anything but "classic." Therefore, I need warriors ready to defend this. The easiest way to do that? Invite! Have them go to a livecast, either in person or online. Have them see what we are and how radically different it is.
Be still, and know that I am God.
-Rev. Melissa Fain-
Some of us will never truly know crisis. I also know there are certain levels of crisis I don't personally understand. Even if I have been a nomad, I've never been homeless. I've never worked through severe addiction, and the brokenness such dependencies can cause. Even speaking from my understanding of crisis, I'm not all knowing. I do, however, know a thing or two about crisis. I do know what it feels like to have that sudden feeling of losing control, and the anxiety, depression and hopelessness that comes with it. Now that I've lived through it, I can't go back. I will forever be changed. Therefore, know that I know what I'm talking about. To make sure everyone is included, I'm going to give an off the wall story to help us understand.
Imagine you are hiking. You don't like hiking? Well, pretend you do. Maybe you are doing this for a pal you really respect, and you just want to make that person feel better. You and this pal decide to do a trail not a lot of people do. It's off the beaten path, but has this beautiful view when you get to the end. Well, the two of you are walking when a boar comes out of the woods and gores you. Seriously, out of no where this boar just runs through and jabs you with his tusks!
Your first thought might be, "Well, that just sucks. These are new pants and everything." This you would only feel for a moment, because of the intense pain of being gored, followed by the steady blood loss. You, my friend, are officially in crisis. No need to thank me. It's my duty to lead you through these big stages in your life.
When one is in crisis there is an immediate need to do anything but stay calm. Some naturally try to flee. Some attempt to fight. Others freeze. Those are great responses based on a time when our natural instincts kicked in to take care of us. In many ways, our natural responses can act against us today. Like freezing might be great if you want to blend into your surroundings so a giant man eating monster doesn't eat you. Freezing is not so great when you have a giant gash in your leg, and you need to act before you bleed out. Or to use a more reasonable analogy, it doesn't help to freeze when the situation is crisis in a church or work setting.
That's when our Psalm steps in with radical advice. We love our Psalm 46:10. We sing it in church, we pray it in contemplation. We typically go to it in moments of calm. Reading the entire Psalm paints an entirely different picture. The verses above verse 10 talk about mountains crumbling into the sea, worlds falling apart and general destruction. This Psalm is the epitome of crisis. What do we do when the world around us is burning?
God is our refuge and strength, our very help in times of trouble.
"Be still, and now that I am God."
Psalm 46:1,10 NRSV
I've been certified a few times in first aid and CPR. One of the first lessons we learn in training is, stay calm. It's in staying calm a first responder can do the three C's: Check-Call-Care. (Check the scene for anything dangerous. Call for help. Care for the victim.) Speaking as someone who has been a situation where I needed to do CPR, and first aid: Those first times you get into those situations, calm is one of the hardest steps to overcome.
When I hear this scripture I imagine the world burning to the ground. In that moment, calm comes because it's God saying, "Hey, you're not alone. Calm down." We can be God's hands and feed, when we know it's God's power that moves us.
We will be at The Daily Grind this Sunday at 2pm for your livecast! We would love to see you. If you can't be there in person, show up online on our Facebook page!