The Anthropians: A Fun Missions/Community Interaction Learning Experience

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Several years ago, I was a participant at the Missionary Learning Center in Rockville, Virginia. While there, we participated in a large group experience where some of us were missionaries and others were members of an unreached people group. I don’t remember the details of the experience, but I do remember that I left feeling like I had a better understanding of relating cross-culturally.

Earlier this week, I was tasked with training the Celebration Church staff on community interaction. I put together a short learning experience based on what I remembered from my time at the Missionary Learning Center. It turned out good for us. I hope it blesses you as well.

The Anthropians 

STEP ONE:

Select six people from the group and send them into another room where they cannot hear what is happening in the large room.

STEP TWO:

Explain to both groups of people that they now have a new identity.

  • Those in the large group are members of the Anthropian Tribe.
    • The Anthropian tribe members only wear one shoe.
    • The Anthropians speak English but only in whispers.
    • The Anthropians applaud whenever anyone says “thank you” or “good-bye.”
    • It is considered polite in the Anthropian culture to hiss and look repulsed whenever someone greets them. ONLY if someone responds in a similar fashion, will they smile and whisper to them.
    • The Anthropian leaders wear funny hats. They only speak to non Anthropians when they are introduced to them by other Anthropians. If someone is introduced to a leader by an Anthropian, the leader hisses and looks repulsed. If the new person responds in kind, the Anthropian leader smiles and speaks to them in a whisper. Every so often the leader says “thank you” for no reason, causing those Anthropians around him to applaud.
    • There is an Anthropian Ruler who sits on the raised level who never speaks or acknowledges anyone, ever, no matter who they are or what the reason. 
  • Those now in the “small sent out group” are the missionaries.
    • They wear matching shirts
    • They speak English in a normal speaking volume
    • Their mission is to learn how to interact with the Anthropian Tribe so they can impact their community for the better.
    • The mission team consists of:
      • A leader who directs the team
      • Four team members who carry-out the directions of the leader
      • One scribe who takes notes on the what he sees and reports his findings to the group.

STEP THREE:

  • In the large group, have the Anthrops gather into circles of 10 with a leader for each group. Give each leader and hat then lead them to practice being Anthrops.
  • In the small group, have the missionary leader and team develop a strategy for interacting with the Anthropians.

 

STEP FOUR:

  • Bring the missionaries into the presence of the Anthropians and have them begin their missionary journey. The leader directs, the missionaries engage, and the scribe takes notes.

STEP FIVE:

  • The action ends. The missionaries de-brief for 2 minutes while the Anthropians return to their seats. Then, the scribe takes the stand and reports to the whole group the findings of the team.

Large Group Questions:

  • Do the Anthropians Need Jesus?
  • Why is doing a little anthropology on the Anthropians important to understand their culture if we’re trying to impact their community? 
  • How can understanding the culture of the communities surrounding our campus help us in impacting them?

*Photo courtesy of Re.zin of Unsplash

Simple Psalm 27 Worship Service Outline

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Here’s an outline we used at Celebration for our October Night of Worship. If you’re hoping to plan a similar service, I hope it helps you.

Psalm 27 Worship Service Outline

Opening Worship Song Set

Greeting and Prayer

SECTION ONE – LIVING UNDER THE PROTECTION OF THE LORD

Scripture Reading: Psalm 27:1-3 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation, so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.”

Sharing – Expounding on Psalm 27:1-3 and what it means to live under the protection of the Lord.

Prayer – Acknowledging our Dependence on the Lord. Mention His greatness and how we can be confident that He will take care of us no matter what is happening.

Suggested Song –

  • I Need You – 

SECTION TWO – LIVING IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD

Scripture Reading: Psalm 27:4-6 – “The one thing I ask of the Lord-the thing I seek most-is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in His temple. For He will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in His sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At His sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.”

Sharing – Expounding on Psalm 27:4-6 and what it means to live in the presence of the Lord.

Prayer – Thanking God for His presence and for the confidence we can have in the midst of diversity because of His daily presence in our lives

Suggested Song

  • Here As In Heaven – 

SECTION THREE – LIVING WITH THE PLEDGE OF THE LORD’S FAITHFULNESS

Scripture Reading: Psalm 27:7-10 – “Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Do not turn your back on me. Do not reject your servant in anger. Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me, O God of my salvation! Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.”

Sharing – Expounding on Psalm 27:7-10 and what the faithfulness of the Lord means to each of us.

Prayer – Thanking God for His faithfulness in our lives and for the assurance that He will always be faithful to us.

Suggested Song

 

  • Do It Again – 

 

SECTION FOUR – LIVING WITH THE PROMISE OF A FUTURE WITH THE LORD

Scripture Reading: Psalm 27:13-14 – “Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”

Sharing – Expounding on Psalm 27:13-14 and what it means to live with the promise of a great future with the Lord, both in this life and in the next.

Prayer – Thanking God for the promise of a great future with Him.

Suggested Song

 

  • Yes and Amen – 

 

ConclusionExpound upon the faithfulness and protection of the Lord in these uncertain times. Share about how we can always trust in the Lord because we can be certain of His love for us.

Closing Song

 

  • Upbeat Closing Song 

*Photo courtesy of Unsplash

 

 

Stranger Than Fiction

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I’ve heard it said that truth is stranger than fiction, but I was never certain as to whether or not I could really believe it. Truth and Fiction are so similar that it’s hard to distinguish between them. Many times, in either classification, people are simply telling stories.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love stories. I always have. There’s something about the ebb and flow of the introduction of characters, the unfolding of the setting, the emergence of conflict, the buildup of relational tension, and the joy of resolution that grips me down deep.

Stories teach. Stories heal. Stories whisk us away to other lands and somehow through the mental break and moral lessons they provide, we emerge as better people, much of the time at least. Stories impact our lives and change us.

When I was eight years old, a preacher came to my house and shared with me, what I heard, was the greatest story ever told. If that was so, he should have put more effort into telling it. Knowing it was only a story, I repeated his prayer and two weeks later I was baptized.

Suddenly, my story changed, at least in theory. For you see, to the world I was a Christian, living a life dedicated to my Lord Jesus and striving to be free and separated from sin.  The truth however, is that even though I was a member of a church, I was living a lie. I was telling a story. I thought that the Bible stories that I heard at church and at home were simply stories, no different than the stories of Curious George, Spiderman, Santa Claus, and the Engine That Could. I loved all of these stories, but understood that honestly, they were simply moral lessons designed to teach me to be a good boy.

But then, as a teenager, a conflict arose within me. Suddenly, I became both protagonist and antagonist making major plot decisions in how my life’s story was going to play out.  I realized I was standing at a major crossroads. The decisions I was about to make would not only determine the next chapter of my life, but it would be instrumental in defining my journey’s end.

Honestly, I thought about abandoning stories altogether. It didn’t matter if it was Truth or Fiction. Both seemed to be getting stranger by the day. A whirlwind of stress and confusion caused the tension within me to swell to the point of explosion, when I realized I was wrestling with an unseen character.

This new character was dynamic and powerful yet peaceful and controlled. This character had the power to transform my story forever. This character was the Author Himself. He stepped into my story and helped me realize that it was His story all along.

That’s when I realized that the stories I had learned as a child about the Lord weren’t stories at all. They were real.

It was then that I joined His story as a willing participant, honored to be included as a character in His book forever.

I’ve heard it said that Truth is stranger than Fiction. That may be true, but at least it’s real.

She was Staring Right into Me

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I left the college talent show audition with my head down and walked across the crowded conference center. Not really wanting to see anyone I knew, I found a secluded patio and decided to lay low and nurse my wounds. I had never done well with rejection.

Trying to work through my feelings, I sat on one of the benches, leaned my head back, and closed my eyes. After a couple of minutes, I sighed heavily and opened my eyes. To my surprise, an older woman was right in front of me, staring right into me.

“I’m sorry if I startled you,” she said with a British accent, “May I sit for a moment?”

“Sure,” I replied, wondering if that was the best course of action.

She sat and smiled. “There’s something God wants you to know.”

“Ok,” I replied cautiously.

“You are unique and loved by God. He has very special plans for your life.”

She smiled once again, stood, and walked away.  Suddenly encouraged, I left to find my friends.

That evening, while sitting with 2,000 college students, I watched as that same lady was introduced as the main speaker for the evening.  Slowly she walked to the front of the stage, looked slowly across the audience, and said, “I am here tonight to tell you something very important. You should never forget it. You are unique and loved by God.”

I have long since forgotten the name of the woman, but her words remain. I think of them often when I feel discouraged. They’re true for me and true for you as well.

You are unique and loved by God.

Photo by Averie Woodard, courtesy of Unsplash

 

 

Steps to Improving Spoken Transitions

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It was the early 90’s. I had big hair, a mustache, and huge shoulder pads in my sports jacket. In the midst of our worship set, I was verbally transitioning to the old praise song Behold the Lamb. I had planned to share about how John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

It was going well, so I took it further than I had planned.

Big. Mistake.

Here’s what I ended up saying:

“Jesus is the Lamb of God. He’s the only person who has ever lived who has lived a totally sinful life.”

And then, without realizing my mistake, I said it once again.

Spoken transitions, no matter where they fall, are extremely important for the flow of a worship service. If one goes badly, the worship leader or preaching pastor may never fully re-engage the people.

Here are 3 steps I believe can help us all improve our spoken transitions:

Think. Take time to think about what you are trying to accomplish. Think about the words you are going to say. Think about the people who will be hearing your words. Think about what is coming after the transition.

Script. Take time to script out what you are going to say. Then, tighten it up by shortening it as much as possible. Remove unnecessary or repeated words and phrases.

Practice. Take time to rehearse what you’ve scripted out. Start by reading your what you’ve written aloud. Chances are, you’ll make a small adjustment or two. Then, stand in front of a mirror and practice until what you are saying feels more natural to you.

These 3 steps all have two words in common.

Take Time.

If something is worth being said, it’s worth taking the necessary time to make it as good as possible. Hopefully, by doing so, you can avoid telling your congregation that Jesus lived a sinful life.

Mourning the Loss of a Giant

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I was sitting alone in a cafe, waiting for my friends to arrive, when I read the news for the first time. As I scanned the headlines on my phone, I read about further resignations of pastors, elders, and leaders from a ministry I once held dear (and still care about). Even though I continued with my day, I must admit that a haze clouded my day. In my own way, I suppose I was mourning for people I had never met personally, but who nevertheless had a deep impact on my life and ministry. I was also grieving the damage that has been done to the church of God.

I know it sounds weird to think of it, but many of those involved have, at one time or another, been my heroes in and of the faith. It reminds me the song Show Me The Way recorded by the group Styx recorded many years ago:

Every night I say a prayer in the hopes that there’s a heaven

But every day I’m more confused as the saints turn in to sinners.

All the heroes and legends I knew as a child have fallen to idols of clay

And I feel this empty place inside, so afraid that I’ve lost my faith…

Now, I haven’t lost my faith in God, but my faith in others, especially Christian leaders, has been shaken a bit. I’m still going to follow the Lord, and serve Him with all that I am, but I am mourning. I do feel an empty place inside. So what do I do?

I’m going to pray. James wrote the following in James 1:5 – If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. I need wisdom and God is ready and willing to grant my request.

I’m going to forgive. In Mark 11:25, Jesus said, But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in Heaven will forgive your sins, too. The Styx song above makes many points, but it’s got the order wrong in the first verse. Granted, some saints are considered to be sinners, but as Christians we know that we’re all sinners that have been transformed into saints only by the grace of our Lord.

EI’m going to refuse to put people, even Christian leaders and teachers, on a pedestal. I read an article this morning suggesting several up and coming Christian leaders to follow in the wake of the latest fall. It’s probably a timely article, but it irritated me that it’s just suggesting new human replacements for hero gaps that should really be filled by the Lord. The Apostle Paul wrote the following in Colossians 3:1-4 – Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory.

I’ve learned from Ecclesiastes that there’s a time to mourn. I’m still doing that today. But I’m not going to let what’s happened destroy my relationship with the Lord or keep me from His people or from worship services or small groups. I’m pressing forward, holding tight to Jesus.

He is still God.

Jesus is still Lord.

And I will follow Him.

We can never be Superman, but we can be Iron Man

I meet with a group of guys every Thursday morning at 7. We joke a lot, eat breakfast, study the Bible, and pray for each other. We serve together feeding the homeless on a monthly basis. Our group is classified on the church database as Just For Men, but we don’t like that name because it reminds us of a hair coloring product. Instead, we just call it our Men’s Life Group.

This past week, we were looking at a passage of scripture in Ephesians which talks about putting on the full armor of God. During our discussion, we had a realization that could only come out of a men’s (or boy’s) group.

We can never be Superman, but we can be Iron Man.

Let me explain, in Ephesians 6:13-17 (NLT), Paul writes the following:

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of the truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Being guys, this led us to thinking about Iron Man’s body armor which covers his whole body and is connected to his shoes, belt, and helmet. We figured he would have to borrow Captain America’s shield.

The point is, people today like to think of themselves as Superman. We can do everything ourselves. We’re faster (or as fast as) the Flash, we can fly faster than Wonder Woman’s invisible jet, and we have the strength of the Hulk. But the real truth is, even with our gifts and talents, we are defenseless without the full armor of God. If we’re going to make it, we need the suit. To take it even further, the armor only works because of a renewed heart.

Kind of cool, huh?

Maybe we should call our group the Iron Man Life Group. What do you think?

What D.L. Moody realized at the end of his life

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D.L. Moody was a shoe salesman turned preacher, evangelist, and publisher who often spoke to crowds from 10,000 to 20,000 people. It is said that in his lifetime, he presented the gospel, by voice or literature, to at least 100 million people.
This great evangelist spoke mainly to adults around the world, but neat the end of his life, D.L. Moody said:
“If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry
to reaching children for God!”
Wow. He understood what we should all understand.
If we reach children for Christ, they can live their entire lives knowing Jesus.
If we disciple children, we can impact an entire generation for Jesus.
If we help children grow closer to the Lord, they will seek after Him for a lifetime.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Then, Jesus “placed His hands on their heads and blessed them…”
It’s time we all remember how important it is that all children, red, yellow, black, brown, and white, are precious in the sight of the Lord. Jesus loves them. He knows what they need. He wants to bless them. He wants to know each of them in a personal way.
*photo courtesy of Joshua Coleman of Unsplash

What Makes Christianity Different

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Once, during a British conference on comparative religions, experts were discussing if there was any belief truly unique to Christianity.  Creation, incarnation, and resurrection were quickly eliminated because of examples in other religions. C.S. Lewis wandered into the room and enquired as to the topic of conversation. When the debate was explained to him, without hesitation, Lewis replied, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

Grace is so simple that it baffles the experts. Grace is what makes Christianity unique. Because of it, we have the opportunity to know Jesus as Savior and Friend. Grace helps us understand the difference between happiness and joy. It allows us to conquer all of our fears. There is nothing we can do to earn grace and there is no way that we can destroy it. In Ephesian 1:5-6, the Apostle Paul wrote: He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.  

Grace is free and yet it is also priceless. It truly is amazing.

Since such grace has been given to us, we should always strive to treat others with grace. In doing so, we are imitating our Heavenly Father.

*Photo courtesy of Alina Strong from Unsplash

 

Sound Booth Sabotage

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“There must be a culprit in the sanctuary,” I thought.

The video equipment had been set up and taken down by the same faithful volunteers for close to a year and a half without any problem. Now, each week, throughout the service, the video system would suddenly lose connection for a second or two and then return to normal. It started happening once every five minutes or so, then the problem grew steadily worse.

Pastors, leaders, technicians, and volunteers were all baffled over the situation. Over the course of several weeks, different teams tried updating the presentation system, double checking the connections, updating the computer, using different computers, checking the multiple adapters, replacing a converter, checking the temperature of the equipment, and checking the stress on the cabling, all to no avail.

In the end, I wondered, “Could someone be sabotaging the system?”

Finally, the entire system was setup during the week by a small group, determined to double check every connection until the issue was discovered. However, when everything was setup, the problem could not be reproduced.

Fortunately, one of the team members received a text message, and the problem occurred. Testing a theory, he sent a text message, and the disconnect happened again. Then, the technicians realized that a phone could simply be placed near certain connection points and the glitch would occur. The team found a thicker, more insulated cable and retested the system, placing cell phones over the cables and sending text messages back and forth.

No glitch.

The culprit in the sanctuary had been found. Unseen frequencies, which had previously not been released for cell phone use, had been steadily increasing in the room as people had updated their phones, thereby causing problems in the wired video equipment.

Crazy, right?

Thank the Lord we were able to purchase higher grade, better insulated cables. We’ve since learned that this will become more of an issue for sound and video systems overtime, so we’re taking steps to make the necessary equipment replacements ahead of time. It’s either that or make everyone check their cell phone at the door and I don’t see that happening.