3 ways to pastor momentum

3 ways to pastor momentum

Mark 3: 7 – 11 “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.

The meetings are going really well! Large crowds are gathering from many regions, they are travelling to Capernaum because of the news of people being healed and delivered from demons and incredible practical teaching that has not been heard before.

But even in the best of moments problems can occur and if they are not dealt with then it will prevent the effectiveness of what is happening. And so for Jesus he was being pushed further to the water’s edge, things were getting out of hand and he needed to think of something.

I think the one thing that we all need to know is how to take care of the momentum you are in.

  1. Step ahead: Keep creating space for people to be impacted by your ministry. You always need to be at least a step ahead of your followers. Jesus asked for a small boat. What must we do to be a step ahead of those we are leading?
  2. Be creative: For a boat to become a pulpit takes good eyesight. What or who can help you in this situation? What changes will they have to make in order to best help you? How creative can you be?
  3. Control the publicity: The reasons why Jesus didn’t want them to tell about him was because:-
    1. Demons are not entirely reliable!
    2. He was following His Father’s plan and no-one else’s.

Is there a right time NOT to post on social media because the sources are not reliable and/or you are hearing from God to be quiet?

5 questions about building culture

5 questions about building culture

Mark 3: 1-6 “Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”

Jesus had said he was Lord of the Sabbath. Now they wanted to test this lordship; will he continue to break the laws that have stood for generations and can be supported Scripturally or will his lordship comply with their beliefs and practices? Some of them believed that Jesus couldn’t resist seeing a sick person; he just had to get involved. Maybe they planted the man with the withered hand? Maybe they went looking for a diseased man and told him to go to the synagogue and they did all this to trap Jesus?

In recent years there has been much talk about building culture. Books, seminars and conference speakers have done well in bringing such an important aspect to our attention. Our church culture is very important and a quick google search will help you in ‘how to define a healthy church culture’, ‘7 steps to a great church culture’ and the ‘8 dangers of church culture’ etc.

This passage today raises some important questions for the culture we want to build:

Does the culture trap Jesus to be a Jesus that complies to the culture; does it create a Jesus that is acceptable to those within it?

Does the culture create new behaviours for people to obey and are these behaviours difficult or easy?

Does the culture use or manipulate people or does it seek to heal people?

Does the culture create inflexibility in the people’s lives, stubbornness against change, a fear for anything new?

Does the culture mean that the ‘drawbridge’ goes up and silence is commanded when it is questioned and challenged?

If yes, maybe you want to offend that culture by being Christ-like. If you do, then that culture will break from you.

 

There no entrance exams …

There no entrance exams to connect to Jesus.

Mark 2: 25-28 “He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

I am so pleased there are no exams, hoops to jump through or interviews to be held in order to connect with Jesus. He is here waiting for you …

The response of Jesus to the Pharisees regarding his disciples eating the grain from the fields on a Sabbath day was literally a whole new level.

It was so much more than Jesus saying if it was good enough for David to eat consecrated bread then my disciples can eat on a consecrated day.

Some people will want to tie you down to rules, their rules, standards, opinions, a code of conduct that you have to submit to in order to please them.

Don’t even bother discussing grain from fields and what is lawful and what is not.

It is difficult for us to from a different culture to fully understand this but let’s try:

  • When David was fleeing Saul he went to the high priest Ahimelek and lied his way into being provided with the only bread available, the consecrated Temple bread. Everyone knew the story that David had also failed by taking Goliaths sword for himself that had previously been dedicated to the Lord. He ends up at a place called Nothing (Nob) and in a cave hiding. That is the story in a nutshell.
  • Jesus purposely used the name Abiathar and not Ahimelek as the high priest. Abiathar was the son of Ahimelek and became the high priest when David became king and he played an important role in his life. Why did Jesus do this when it was Ahimelek who gave David the bread? Whenever we see Jesus in the gospels taking part of the words he said or change the Old Testament story slightly then we know he is trying to communicate something to people who not only knew the story but they knew the finest detail and would therefore be open to hidden messages that Jesus was trying to communicate. And here it is …
    • Just as the transition from Saul to David was seen as a new kingdom the move from Ahimelek to Abiathar was seen alongside this as a new priesthood. They were of course shadows of what was to come. The new Kingdom and the new Priesthood would of course only come with a coming new Covenant that the Messiah would bring.
    • “You Pharisees are dealing with details of behaviour trying to trap people because you yourself are trapped in an old kingdom, an old priesthood and you have not recognised the new day is here.” That is what Jesus was saying and if they didn’t get that he goes on even more bluntly to say …
    • “You are focusing on the law, the rules and the standards of behaviour. This is the old covenant. But the new covenant is here. I am the Lord of all that including the Sabbath. Relationship with me is greater than relationship with the rules.”

Are you not grateful for the relationship with Jesus and that out of that love flows the way of life? Rather than trying to have a perfect way of life to connect with Jesus. I am!

Rules

Rules

Mark 2: 23-24 “One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

In one chapter we have the Pharisees just not leaving Jesus alone and they will as we know continue to do so. Questioning him over healing, over eating with sinners, over fasting and now they are objecting over his disciples eating some heads of grain in the fields on the Sabbath. The Pharisees are protecting their culture, they are crying out for purity, they campaign against sin. Why? Because it was sin that cast God’s people out of the garden, it was sin that caused them to die in the wilderness and sin was breaking the rules, law codes, sacrificial offerings that are mentioned in the memorised Torah (first 5 books of the Old Testament).

Without Jesus, rules become very important and worth the effort to protect them. But when you follow Jesus then your attraction for Him may mean you cause offence to those who do not see Him like you do. Following Jesus means you will have to let go of pleasing man and the rules that protect your status with God.

Fasting, fabrics and fermented wine.

Fasting, fabrics and fermented wine.

Mark 2: 18 – 22 “Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” 19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. 21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

Fasting, fabrics and fermented wine.

Why are you not fasting?

Throughout the Old Testament the prophets spoke of God being the husband, the bridegroom of the bride, Israel. For Jesus to speak of himself as the bridegroom was his way of revealing in a veiled way his identity. He was God here on earth. Why should there be a longing, a spiritual hunger, an aching heart for God to come and lift off the oppression on their lives when He is here already?! This is amazing. He is here in front of you! All fasting is now cancelled, for now! But there will come a time when Jesus is no longer physically here on earth, then you should fast. This is now. This is for us. We should fast for moves of God.

Why are you sewing good cloth onto an old garment?

The good cloth is new. When Jesus came and then ascended He didn’t leave us alone. Through His victory He sent His Spirit who birthed a new kingdom of the presence of God here on earth. Something new took place. We are in the new period of time. It is incompatible with the old way of life. The new way of grace will not connect with the old way of law. Don’t take something old to build something new.

Why are you pouring new wine into old wineskins?

Similarly don’t take something rigid, tight, unmoveable and inflexible like an old wineskin to hold a new move of the Spirit of God. The foundations of our life need to change to accommodate the Spirit.

This is a new day and we need to treat it so.

 

Are you in need?

Are you in need?

Mark 2: 14-17 “As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. 15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

Jesus calls those in need.

Levi was a hated man. Having paid all the taxes to Rome himself he then collected taxes from the people and hiked them up with huge interest which gave him a very good living. He was greedy, wealthy and selfish. Yet he was ready to leave it all. There was no pull to stay. He needed a new life. He needed to get out. He needed a better purpose to live for. He had many friends like him. They stayed together in some sort of exclusive despised club. But he felt the need the strongest. He would lead them all into a new way of life if it be possible. He was ready. He needed to change.

Jesus calls those in need.

The Pharisees were righteous men. They were teachers of the law, they knew the Torah better than anyone else and they knew that fact. They had further interpretations of the Torah which acted as their own laws, more rules on top of the basic big rules on how to please God. Only they seemed qualified to keep these rules and they knew it. They looked the part. Appearance was everything. They would sneak into private dinner parties and snoop around looking for ‘sin’, wanting to demonstrate how righteous they were. They were the cleaners and evictors of sin. They spoke confidently. They were not in need. Jesus didn’t call them. There was in fact no need.

Jesus calls those in need.

If you are in need today He calls you. It doesn’t matter how you got into that need or whether you are responsible for it. You may be to blame or you may be innocent. He doesn’t come to sort it all out and put the sinners into one corner and the victims in another. He calls those in need for whatever the reason and actually those he dines with seem to be the ones no one would want to dine with.

Do you need Him today? He is calling you!

 

 

Let us get near the crowds

Let us get near the crowds

Mark 2: 13 “Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.”

I began reading this and wondered how peaceful that must have been, choosing to go and walk by the lake. My first thought was ‘do I have a place that I like to go that is peaceful?’ That could have been my devotional blog this morning, until the large crowd comes along! It certainly is true in my nation that if you said to someone you are going to walk by the lake they would have a picture in their mind of time alone where you can be with the Creator and to meditate on the beautiful and solitary place. This is not that picture. Neither is it a picture of disruption. ‘It was peaceful and then the enemy sends distractions’ is not what happened.

Jesus purposely went to the lake to meet people. It was the place of activity. The Sea of Galilee was like a bus terminus, a railway station, every imaginable picture of workers, fishermen, buyers, sellers. There were no tourists basking in the sun on the sea shore. This was where people gathered for a purpose. It was where he had called the 4 disciples. Capernaum is on the side of the lake where he had his home base. Jesus lived by the lake and he chose to live amongst the crowds.

Isn’t that a wonderful thought? God’s Son didn’t come as Immanuel to stay in the desert or a mountain top and to call us to him. He didn’t build a building and make it look lovely so that crowds could on a day off from their busy lives visit it to find him. No. He came amongst us. He lived amongst the crowds. Yes there were times when he needed to get to a solitary place to be with God the Father but mostly he lived and moved amongst the crowds. The good news was in the pressure cooker of people’s lives, in their work place, homes, neighbourhoods, where they gathered. It was there that Jesus began to teach them a different perspective to life.

Let us make sure that today the church/us are where people are doing their life. Let is make the good news accessible for everyone.

 

What does the Church need?

What does the Church need?

Mark 2:1-10 “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

 

Where is the Church in this story?

Are we the house full of people? A packed church is a successful church, right?

Are we the 4 men carrying the paralytic demonstrating faith for their paralysed friend? Bring people to Jesus is what we do, right?

Are we the religious leaders, the custodians of all that is righteous and not? Keeping a moral compass is our task in this fallen world, right?

Are we the paralysed man who is without power and is broken inside and out?

Or are we Jesus? What picture of Jesus is the Church portraying? A Jesus who gathers? Surely that is the goal. A Jesus who preaches? Yes, we all need to become better at that. A Jesus who challenges mind-sets of the religious? Yes to all these things. But one thing that seems to be lacking, one thing that we must seek, one thing that we come close to on many occasions and when it is demonstrated we marvel and we cheer.

The Church needs to be Jesus with authority:

  • An authority that is heard in our speech – Why does this fellow talk like that?
  • An authority that makes us like Christ – He’s blaspheming!
  • An authority that brings a loving new direction to people – Who can forgive sins but God alone?
  • An authority that re-writes the story of broken people – He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.
  • An authority for this generation – We have never seen anything like this!

You are not the exemption!

You are not the exemption!

Mark 1: 40 – 45 “A man with leprosy[h] came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41 Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. 43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”

 

I must have preached this hundreds of times and this morning I saw something I have never seen. Perhaps I have been reading it from other translations where the words are actually, ‘moved or filled with compassion’. At first I thought I had read it wrong, even thinking there was something wrong with my printed version, does it really say, “Jesus was indignant”?!

The leper believed Jesus could heal leprosy, he had faith for this. He just didn’t have the belief or the confidence that Jesus wanted to heal his leprosy. That’s what made Jesus indignant.

If we trust the translators who use the words that I am more familiar with, ‘moved with compassion’ then we know Jesus is not angry with the man.

Jesus was continually angry with the sin that he encountered, the broken sinful world that he had come to save.

‘God can do this but I am not sure God wants to do this for me.’ How did this man have such a high view of God but such a low view of himself? Why was he despising himself so much? Why such low self-esteem and self-worth? The problem was deeper than his leprosy. What was his story of life that made him think this way? Maybe Jesus looking into the man’s eyes could see the various chapters of the man’s broken story. The things that had happened to him, what he had encountered, the isolation he had experienced, here was a man who had the sins of this world fall on him. This is what made Jesus indignant.

So, maybe we should be careful how we pray or talk to others? The ‘God is not bothered with poor little me’ is likely to get an angry response! The point is that attitude is wrong and it needs correcting. If God can do it then why wouldn’t He do it for you?

I see something else which perhaps reveals more than we see at first reading. Jesus gave the man a strong warning not to tell people but to go to the Temple and worship. His response was “Jesus wanted this but he didn’t want this for me, not really.” The man thought he was exempt from the commands he had just received. His actions prevented Jesus’ moving freely.

So not only did this man doubt Jesus wanted to heal him, he doubted whether the commands of Jesus were for him also. Thinking you’re the exemption all the time is dangerous for you because it can prevent His work in your life and His work in other people’s too. You are not the exemption! So stop making Jesus indignant!

 

One v Everyone

One v Everyone

Mark 1: 35-39 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.”

Everyone was still asleep, but the One was drawing Him.

Everyone filled the house, soon it would be noisy again, but the desire for quietness with the One motivated Him to leave it.

At first light everyone wanted Him. The 4 disciples wanted questions answering, some more teaching, others knocked at the door to say thanks for healing them the day before, still more came wanting their own healing and deliverance. Everyone was running on adrenalin and they wanted Him to copy them, this would be a busy day ahead. But after praying to the One He understood His purpose was to move on, He knew why He had come, the One told Him that not the everyone, they wanted Him to stay, but the One told Him to go.

Today the battle has already begun between everyone and the One. Who will you submit to?