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

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.

8 Reasons Why You Should Never Ask A Woman if She Is Pregnant

Fear

Ok, just in case you don’t know this already, never, never, never, never, ever ask a woman if she is pregnant.

  1. If she isn’t pregnant, it tells her that you think she appears to be in that condition, which simply translated means that YOU THINK SHE IS FAT.
  2. If she is pregnant, she may not be ready to make it public yet.  The moment of her revealing her condition is her choice, not yours.    
  3. She may be pregnant, but in the very early stages of pregnancy.  Your asking translates to her that YOU THINK SHE IS FAT.
  4. She may be pregnant but be sick of talking about it.  Everything in her life is changing, not to mention the changes that her body is going through.  She may need a mental break from discussing her condition.
  5. She may be struggling with infertility and taking meds that cause bloating or swelling of the ovaries.  Your asking reminds her of the problem and confirms to her that the world is aware of the physical side effects.  In other words, YOU AND EVERYONE ELSE THINKS SHE IS FAT.
  6. She may simply be overweight, which makes your comment extremely insulting because YOU THINK SHE IS FAT.
  7. She may have just miscarried, which makes your comment extremely insensitive.
  8. It’s none of your business

Basic rule to follow – If she brings it up, talk about it all you like.  If she doesn’t bring it up, don’t mention it.  Save her the embarrassment and yourself the possible black eye.

The Secret to Creativity

I recently learned the biggest problem with creativity:

People want creativity to be like this

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People want creativity to be linear – straight from the need to the end result. Archimedes said that the shortest distance between two objects is a straight line. That makes sense, right? Creativity should work like that too, correct? We should have the ability to be creative on demand with our best ideas, right?

It may work that way for some, but most often it does not.

Creativity is really more like this

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The best creativity comes from a crockpot instead of a microwave. The best creativity involves starting with an idea, allowing your to marinate (ponder) what you have, making adjustments along the way, and finally coming to a finished product.

The secret is giving yourself time to ponder, edit, soak, and revise.

 

The Calling and Ministry of Peter – A Night of Worship/Illustrated Sermon

Here’s an outline based on the calling, collapse and restoration of Simon Peter for a Night of Worship our church did following Easter in 2018. If you’re able to use it, that’s great. If not, I hope it inspires you.

Jesus and Peter

Opening Worship Set

  • Song
  • Song
  • Song

Welcome and Transition

(If you are taking an offering, this is the place to do it)

Initial Prayer for the Evening

SECTION ONE – ILLUMINATION

Tonight we’re going to be following the ups and downs of Peter’s calling and ministry with Jesus. Peter was a fisherman that God used to be a fisher of men. Listen to Luke’s account of how Peter became a disciple of Jesus.

Luke 5:1-11

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on Him to listen to the word of God. 2 He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. 3 Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So He sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” 5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” 6 And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! 7 A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

8 When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” 9 For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him.10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

  • Main point – Peter was an ordinary man, but Jesus wanted to use him to do extraordinary things. In fact, in Matthew 16, Jesus called Peter The Rock, meaning that he would be instrumental in establishing His church. However, when Peter first encountered Jesus, he was humbled, but when Jesus called, he dropped everything and followed after Jesus.
  • God also wants us to be fishers of men. We are just that when we give up our own agenda and follow after Him.

Prayer – Thanking God for calling us to follow after Him. Asking Him to help us be faithful as we work together to fish after men.

Song – About following/being faithful to Jesus – Suggestion is The Stand – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kV5iZBTNYrk

SECTION TWO – CONFESSION

Spoken – Peter followed after the Lord and also became one of Jesus’ inner circle. He was a natural born leader and was the first of the disciples to confess that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  

  • It was Peter who showed enough faith to leave the boat to walk on the water to Jesus. But it was also Peter who quickly took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. (Matthew 14:28-29)
  • It was Peter who took Jesus aside to rebuke Him for speaking of His death. It was also Peter who was swiftly corrected by Jesus for doing so. (Matthew 16:22-23)
  • It was Peter who drew his sword and attacked the servant of the high priest as Jesus was being arrested. But it was also Peter who was immediately told to sheath his weapon (John 18:10-11)
  • It was Peter who boasted that he would never forsake the Lord, even if everyone else did, and it was this same Peter who later denied three times that he even knew Jesus. (Matthew 26:33, 70-74)

Listen to what Luke writes about Peter’s denial:

Luke 22:31-34, 54-62

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”

33 Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” 34 But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

54 So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. 55 The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. 56 A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!” 57 But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”

58 After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!” “No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted.

59 About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.

61 At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

62 And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.

Question: Have you ever messed up royally while trying to serve Jesus? I know I have. At this point in Peter’s life, it must have looked like everything was over. However, Jesus had just said to him, “when you have repented and turned to me again” which may have given him reason for hope, if he remembered Jesus’ words in that moment.

When we mess up while trying to serve the Lord, when we fall short of His calling on our lives, and when we even find ourselves denying Him, we need to follow the words Jesus said to Peter – we need to repent and turn to Him again.

What do you need to repent to the Lord tonight? In what ways have you denied Him? Let’s all take time and confess our sins to the Lord right now. You may want to kneel. You may want to stand and lift your hands to the Lord. You may want to sit and make a list of your shortcomings. Or you may just want to pray quietly. Do that now as the music plays.

(Give the people 1-2 minutes of confession time with the Lord)

Pastoral Prayer – Lead the people in corporate prayer, asking the Lord to forgive us of our sins.

Song – About confessing our sins to the Lord, or about His forgiveness. One suggested song is Lord, I Need You by Matt Maherhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuvfMDhTyMA

SECTION THREE – RESTORATION

Spoken – Because we’ve read the Bible and heard the stories, we know that Jesus was raised from the dead. We know that Jesus appeared to His disciples many times before His ascension and that Peter was there. But, do you ever think that it must have been a weird time for Peter, knowing that he had denied the Lord, right in front of Him. Jesus understood this, and had a plan to restore Peter. The Apostle John writes of this in John 21.

John 21:1, 15-17

1 Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee…15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.

Spoken: It was at this point that Jesus confirmed with Peter that he was forgiven. Through his actions and words, the Lord reaffirmed Peter, who understood once again that he would be instrumental in establishing the Church of Jesus. This can clearly be seen because:

  • First, Peter was the main speaker to the crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost when about 3,000 confessed their faith in Jesus. (Acts 2)
  • Second, Peter was present when the Samaritan believers received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8)
  • Finally, Peter was summoned to the home of the Roman centurion Cornelius, who also believed in the Lord (Acts 10).

In these instances, God used Peter to unlock Christianity to the world as he presented the Gospel to the Jews, the Samaritans, and the Gentiles. God certainly used Peter to be a fisher of men.

Question – Have you ever come to a point in your spiritual walk when you realized you needed to re-commit your life to the Lord? You realized your prayer life was cold and you weren’t living for Him or really even communicating with Him? Jesus restored Peter and He can restore you as well.

Prayer: Lead people to recommit themselves to the Lord, asking Him to renew their passion for Him and to restore them fully to the purposes He has for them.

Suggested Song: Do It Again – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOBIPb-6PTc

SECTION FOUR – CELEBRATION

The Lord continued to use Peter in mighty ways. One that is most celebrated is seen in Acts 2 where the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. It was Peter who stood before the crowds and preached boldly to them about Jesus, proclaiming that they should repent of their sins and be baptized. The Bible says, “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day – about 3,000 in all.”

God had restored Peter, the Rock, and He used him to present the Gospel to a lost and dying world. In a similar fashion, God used the people of this church this past weekend to help bring the Gospel to a lost and dying world. As we celebrated His resurrection, God used parkers, greeters, and ushers to help people know where to sit and where to bring their children. Others helped by making and serving coffee and by keeping the facilities clean. Others taught and cared for children and young people, teaching them about the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. Many of our folks invited their friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors to our services. Others worked tirelessly stuffing and preparing our worship guides, while others prepared music and technical presentations. Countless of others worked backstage or behind the scenes, preparing the way for the Gospel to be presented.

Optional Time for sharing of stats and stories from Easter

Every single one of you is a fisher of men. Thank you so much for all of your work over Easter and for all that you do on a regular basis. We appreciate it and we know that God is pleased.

Sharing and Prayer in Groups – Lead the people to circle up and to share with one another what God has done for them recently and overall. Instruct them to pray and thank God for all He’s done.

Upbeat Prayer – Thanking God for all that happened over Easter weekend and for all of His people who gave of themselves to make it possible.

Let’s all give praise to God right now for all that He is and for all that He’s done over this past week.

Upbeat Song – Song Suggestion – “Lion and The Lamb” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9ujBoud26k

Transition to Closing