The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ Category

Church for a new era

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Those of you following the life of New Oaks Church may find this story encouraging. Here’s Donnie Miller (pastor of the Trinity Family Church in Gardner, KS) telling of a change of direction:

A New Era begins for TFC

Donnie Miller

There was an energy level among the congregation on Sunday that I haven’t experienced for a long time. People kept telling me, through smiles and hugs, how much they love the changes that have just happened.

These changes have been a long time coming. Last spring, we began a numerical slide that has resulted in our Sunday morning worship attendance being between 2/3 – 1/2 of what it was a year ago at this time. Toward the beginning of that slide, after a very lowly attended Sunday in March, I spent a sleepless night talking with God and wrestling with my fears and hopes. My fear was that if we continued to “do church” as we were at the time, we might not continue to exist. That fear lead to a hope, a hope that TFC could stop focusing on “doing church” and become more intentional about “being the church.” At about 4 AM, I got a pretty clear picture of the changes we could make.

I began sharing those changes with staff, the board and then ministry leaders; everyone was on board with the ideas. Last summer, we polled the congregation to find out approaches were working and to gauge their openness to the potential changes. The surveys revealed an almost unanimous support of the structural changes our leadership was considering.

Discussion groups

In August, we took a big first step in introducing Discussion Groups to Sunday AM worship. To say these groups have been a success would be the understatement of the year. Every Sunday, over 90% of the congregation participates in discussion groups. This past Sunday, only ONE person skipped discussion groups and that was because of a family emergency. It was almost hard to hear the other members of my group over the dull roar of the conversations happening all over the commons. The introduction of Discussion Groups, as well as “Ask Anything” Sundays, have all been a part of our effort to take a more dialogical approach to Sunday morning worship.

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When atheists come to church (sermon of July 5)

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C Vonaesch - Femme Touchant Jesus

C Vonaesch - Femme Touchant Jesus

Last week, Jesus, pushing through a crowd, was secretly touched by a woman who’ d been bleeding for 12 years; her bleeding stopped.  She who’d been untouchable by the rules of the day touched him; she was then well, and he became untouchable.  She gets well. He takes on her “uncleanness.”

And then he touched a 12 year old girl who had recently died. He was now “unclean” twice-over (touching a dead body made him so a second time), but the girl was alive.   She gets life. He takes on her “uncleanness.”

Magnificent.

And the next thing that happens is that Jesus, the now-famous, compassionate, but scandalously irreligious traveling teacher, goes home to Nazareth. And while he’s been amazing everyone, at Nazareth, Jesus is amazed.

What could possibly amaze Jesus? Read the rest of this entry »

Homosexuality: a theologically conservative—and inclusive—view

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It’s almost a truism that Christian conservatives see homosexuality as evil.

J. Kenneth GriderBut consider this courageous 1999 paper of the late Dr. J. Kenneth Grider, long regarded as a voice of conservatism among theologians of the Church of the Nazarene* (and of Wesleyans generally).  You just might be surprised.

I’ve reproduced the first two pages to give you the feel of it, followed by a link to the entire 45-page .pdf. And I’ll guess that there are some insights here you haven’t heard before.

He begins with a question of compassion . . .

Grider p1

Grider p2

Click below for the paper in its entirety. Intriguing reading!

Wesleyans and Homosexuality by J. Kenneth Grider

Care to share your thoughts?


*I should probably note the obvious: Dr. Grider spoke (as do I!) for himself and not for the Church of the Nazarene, the WTS, ONU, or NTS.

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In it but not of it (sermon for May 24)

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An older version

An older version - with the same problem!

My first regular job was in a small jewelry store in Burlington, Iowa. I was about 15, and I worked for the princely sum of $.65 per hour.  I’ll tell you about it in a moment.

First, listen to Jesus as he prays for his followers, just hours before the mob comes to take him to his death.

John 17:6-19 (NIV)
Jesus Prays for His Disciples
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.

They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you.

That must have driven them crazy.

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Torture: brought to you by white evangelicals

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White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified — more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

—a Pew Forum study reported by CNN.com

Egad.

Aren’t the torturers the bad guys in the stories of Jesus?  And weren’t there religious patriots cheering them on, calling out, “We have no god but Caesar?”

Why have evangelicals traded the imitation of Christ for the ruthlessness of Rome?

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Let’s chill. We’re both partly wrong. (Sermon of 1 Feb 09)

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In the aftermath of  World War II, many European intellectuals (later joined by Americans and many others) were forced to ask this question:  how could this have happened? This referred to two world wars, and especially the Holocaust. […] They diagnosed the sickness that had befallen Western civilization in general and “Christian” Germany in particular to be excessive confidence.

Brian McLaren in Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope

Mark 1:21-28 (NIV*)

Arguing over a sales commission (Chicago Theater Blog)

Arguing over a sales commission (Chicago Theater Blog)

21They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

Strange thing to say, isn’t it?  Rabbis certainly did have authority to teach the Scriptures. But when Jesus spoke, something else happened.

And as if to prove it:

23Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24″What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

Remember, we’re in Chapter 1 here.  Who else in the room would have even thought this? Virtually no one but Jesus himself. How shocked they must have been to hear it. What a statement!

And what a source! Jesus reacts immediately. First:

25″Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly.

Why would he shush, if it’s true? Why would an evil spirit say it, anyway? Read the rest of this entry »

The baptism of Jesus

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[This sermon was first posted in January of 2007. Rick Reilly’s comment reminded me that many may be working on something similar, so it seemed good to update and re-post it.  Best wishes!  – Monte]
I have often thought of Jesus as pretty uncertainty-free: so totally God that humanity is just a minor irritation. So certain, so unsurprise-able, so un-swayed by what’s up.

For instance, I might think of his baptism like so: I imagine he becomes off-to-on aware that it’s time (click!), appears on the banks of the Jordan (click!), where the crowds part and everybody understands the obvious (click!), and he all but comes up out of the water with one finger extended for the dove’s perch. Of course he knows it all before it happens.

Doesn’t he?

We’ve been talking about the three audiences to the events of the Bible, especially regarding the gospel of Luke. Remember them?
1. The A.D. 30 Jews, who see it all first-hand.
2. The A.D. 80 or so Jews and Gentiles who first read Luke’s gospel.
3. And us. Now. Read the rest of this entry »